The stars of the reality TV series "Duck Dynasty" have called into question the show's future after the family's patriarch was put on hiatus by the network after he made controversial comments about homosexuality.
In a statement released tonight, the Robertson family said "we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm" and that they "are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future."
In a new interview with GQ magazine, Phil Robertson, 67, explained that homosexuality, in his eyes, is sinful and he went as far as to compare it to bestiality.
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," Robertson told the magazine. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."
After the comments were publicized, A&E, which airs the smash hit series, released a statement, "We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ. … The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."
In the statement, the Robertson family thanked fans for prayers and support.
"The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision," the statement said. "We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word."
"While some of Phil's unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of 'Duck Dynasty.'"
A&E told ABC News tonight that it has no comment on the statement from the Robertsons.
In the GQ interview, Robertson also paraphrased Corinthians, saying: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
Today, some free-speech supporters, including Sarah Palin, took offense to the network taking this action.
"Free speech is endangered species; those 'intolerants' hatin' & taking on 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all," she wrote Wednesday.
Sen. Ted Cruz also chimed in today in support of Robertson's right to free speech.
"If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson," Cruz said. "Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him - but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree."
Pictures have also started to pop on Twitter with taglines like "I Support Phil" and "I Stand With Phil."
A Facebook fan page was created today calling for the boycott of A&E until "Phil Robertson is put back on Duck Dynasty." It now has more than 1 million "likes."
Meanwhile, there has been a large wave of support of his suspension.
GLAAD tweeted that by suspending Robertson, "A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."
"Duck Dynasty" is the highest-rated non-scripted series on television. The show recently aired a Christmas special that drew more than 9 million viewers. It is set to return for the rest of its fourth run in January.