Phil Robertson and A&E Fight Not About 1st Amendment, Expert Says
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are among the politicians and citizens who have said A&E's suspension of "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson from the show this week was an affront to free speech and the First Amendment.
Robertson's comments in which he compared being gay to bestiality were released this week by GQ magazine, prompting A&E to suspend the bearded reality show star as punishment. In the wake of the suspension, many have cried foul over A&E's policy.
"The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive," Jindal said.
"I also acknowledge that this is a free country, and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended," he said.
Palin echoed his concerns:
"Free speech is an endangered species. … Those intolerants hatin' and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us," she wrote on her Facebook page.
Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, said the issue is not actually a First Amendment violation.
"The First Amendment, like the constitution generally, only applies to the government, so if the government stops someone from talking or punishes them, that's a First Amendment issue. If a private person says I won't hire you or let you be on TV anymore, that's not," Roosevelt said.
"The idea is we don't let the government decide what's a good opinion, but we do let individuals decide what they think is offensive and what should be rewarded and what should be discouraged. That's the way the marketplace of ideas is supposed to work," he said.
Roosevelt also pointed out that the U.S. has anti-discrimination laws that bar a company from firing someone for their race or religion, but allow it to fire someone if they have opinions the company doesn't like.
"There's a line that is difficult to draw between religious beliefs and religiously motivated conduct, but what the Supreme Court has said is you can't treat people differently because of their beliefs but if those beliefs lead them to engage in certain actions, you can treat them like someone who had engaged in those actions for a nonreligious belief," he said.