Duck Dynasty fans rally after Phil suspended by A&E

A controversy over Phil Robertson's comments on gays has disturbed Duck Dynasty's holiday plans.

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WEST MONROE, La. (RNS)—The pastor to Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson rushed to his defense after the reality TV star came under heavy criticism for his comments about homosexuality and the Bible.

Duck Dynasty follows members of the extended Robertson clan, the family that runs the Duck Commander hunting-supply company in Louisiana.

duck phil robertson350Phil Robertson, leader of the Duck Dynasty clan.The A&E Network suspended Robertson after an interview with GQ magazine was published. Robertson, 67, was asked: “What, in your mind, is sinful?”

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there—bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” Robertson replied.

He went on to describe the merits of heterosexual intercourse over homosexual relations.

The church where Phil Robertson serves as an elder, White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., received hundreds of phone calls from fans across the country, said Mike Kellett, the senior pastor.

“It seems to me people are tolerant of views except Christianity,” Kellett said. “I don’t have anything to say about the wording in it. I would express things differently, but that’s Phil.”

A&E is free to do what it wants with the show, Kellett said.

“It’s a free country,” Kellett said. “We’re not a protest kind of people. We don’t go out in front of people’s office with signs.”

Defenders jump in

Southern Baptist leaders Russell Moore and Al Mohler, as well as advocacy groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, also came to Robertson’s defense, saying he should not be suspended for voicing his views.

“Free speech is endangered species; those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all,” former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeted on Twitter.

Some Christians said the Robertson situation showed the need for caution in both tone and substance when speaking about sexuality.

“Just because someone quotes 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and is opposed to same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that they’re speaking up for a theologically informed, humane, pastorally sensitive view of what it means to be gay,” Wesley Hill, who describes himself as a celibate gay Christian, wrote for the journal First Things.

A ‘difference in tone’

Brandon Ambrosino, an openly gay Christian who writes about religion and sexuality, noted Robertson and Pope Francis probably share the same views on homosexuality, but there’s a noticeable difference in tone.

“Pope Francis has positions on sexuality, but when he does bring them out, he does it in the most accepting way possible,” Ambrosino said, referring to the pope’s famous remark about “Who am I to judge?” on the issue of homosexuality.

However, Ambrosino said, Robertson should not have been suspended.

“Whether or not I think his understanding of desire is primitive and brute, there are lot of people in America who hold his opinion,” Ambrosino said. “Dismissing an idea is not engaging a debate; that is not even entering into one.”

Update: The Robertsons have made a public statement addressing Phil Robertson’s remarks.

“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,” the statement says. “We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.”

The Robertsons said they are first and foremost a “family rooted in our faith.”

“While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible,” the statement says. “We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.”

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