I would defend the right of Phil Robertson to express whatever opinions he has, however hateful. The creator of Duck Dynasty had this to say in an interview with GQ:
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,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “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.”
Robertson has the right to express his views. However, this does not mean he has any right to be provided an outlet for his views or work, such as a cable network. I don’t really care either way whether A&E dumps his show, any more than I really care about MSNBC dumping Alec Baldwin. That is a decision each network has the right to make, but I’m not sure why anyone at A&E is all that surprised by the views expressed by someone from a redneck fundamentalist Christian reality show.
Despite uninformed cries from the right wing, which always loves to claim to be the victim of an injustice, this is not a First Amendment issue or an issue of free speech, regardless of what Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz might believe. This is hardly the first time Palin has showed a lack of understanding of the First Amendment, as I have pointed out here and here.
The religious right believes it is okay to express hatred based upon sexual orientation because they find support for their vile views in the Bible. The Bible is a work written by men, and interpreted in different ways by different men. They are free to have whatever religious views they desire and attribute whatever significance they desire to the Bible or any other book. They cannot expect that everyone else will simply ignore their expressions of prejudice because this is their religious view or because their views are supported in the writings of their religion. The Bible is a book written by men in a different era, some of whom did not hold the same ethical views we hold in the modern world. Finding support for one’s views in a book does not legitimatize them. To use the Bible to support expressions of hatred toward homosexuals is no more legitimate than to use Mein Kampf to support expressions of hatred toward Jews. These evil and hateful views are evil, regardless of the source. They have the right to express their views, but should not be surprised by the reaction from those living in the modern world which the religious right rejects.
Some conservatives see this as a war against Christ and Christianity. If secular liberals are engaged in a war of ideas, it is a war in support of individual liberty and reason. This has been the war of ideas being waged by liberals since the age of enlightenment. If the religious right sees themselves as the opponents in such a war of ideas, so be it.