The First (and most misunderstood) Amendment

The First Amendment protects against government interference in the exercise of free speech. The First Amendment does not govern how a private media company makes intenral programming decisions. The Governor of Louisiana does not appear to understand the distinction:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) rushed to the defense of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson after he was suspended from the reality show by A&E Wednesday for a series of remarks he made about gays and non-Christians in an interview with GQ Magazine.

Jindal issued a statement Thursday that suggested Robertson’s remarks should have been respected under the First Amendment and that they were less objectionable than the behavior of pop star Miley Cyrus.

“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. 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,” Jindal said. “In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But 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.”

Jindal appears to find nothing wrong/inappropriate with Phil Robertson’s characterization of homosexuals and homosexuality. He appears to have more of a problem with Miley Cyrus’ dance moves. Perhaps he should give up his job as Governor (he’s not exactly the most popular governor) and start his own television network that features nothing but Duck Dynasty 24/7 (and absolutely no twerking). But if he wants to keep sounding off on what does and does not conform to the First Amendment, he should consider reading and understanding it first.

Update: As Matt Yglesias has noted, and as I should have made more clear, the situation with Duck Dynasty implicates the First Amendment only to the extent that it protects the network’s decision to suspend the show from government interference. In other words, it’s Jindal, and not the tv network, that appears to have a problem with the First Amendment.

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  • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

    if he wants to keep sounding off on what does and does not conform to
    the First Amendment, he should consider reading and understanding it
    first.

    Yup

  • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

    the situation with Duck Dynasty implicates the First Amendment only to the extent that it protects the network’s decision to suspend the show from government interference.

    An interesting thought.

    There is no doubt that Robertson’s comments are an expression of his faith. Further, there is no attempt on his part to insinuate that folks he considers sinners should be excluded or discriminated against. On the contrary, he expresses a belief that all people should be loved.

    So, has his employment been altered as a result of his expression of his religion?

    For example, has A&E violated the boilerplate Non-Discrimination clause:

    We
    do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, gender,
    national origin, religion, marital status, age, disability, sexual
    orientation, or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam
    era to any extent discrimination is prohibited by law. – See more at:
    http://www.law.syr.edu/professional-career-development/employers/non-discrimination-policy.aspx#sthash.vxccMgNx.dpufWe
    do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, gender,
    national origin, religion, marital status, age, disability, sexual
    orientation, or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam
    era to any extent discrimination is prohibited by law.
    We
    do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, gender,
    national origin, religion, marital status, age, disability, sexual
    orientation, or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam
    era to any extent discrimination is prohibited by law. – See more at:
    http://www.law.syr.edu/professional-career-development/employers/non-discrimination-policy.aspx#sthash.vxccMgNx.dpuf
    We
    do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, gender,
    national origin, religion, marital status, age, disability, sexual
    orientation, or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam
    era to any extent discrimination is prohibited by law. – See more at:
    http://www.law.syr.edu/professional-career-development/employers/non-discrimination-policy.aspx#sthash.vxccMgNx.dpuf

    • http://www.poisonyourmind.com/ nickgb

      Even if you could show that this clause is in their contract, and I doubt it is, it wouldn’t matter. He isn’t being fired for having the beliefs, he’s being suspended for becoming a public mouthpiece for it. In doing so, he’s probably breaking his morals clause which basically lets networks get rid of entertainers who become a PR liability. If Katie Couric was walking around with a swastika on her purse, she’d be fired in a second, because it then casts her network in a negative light. A&E will say that Duck Douchebag is the same situation, and I agree with that analysis (though I disagree with morals clauses in general).

      • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

        Even if you could show that this clause is in their contract, and I doubt it is, it wouldn’t matter.

        Yeah, I have no insight in the difference between “normal employment law” and then “entertainer employment” law.

        I would assume that if the corner gas station, not having that clause in the employment agreement, would have a law suit on their hands if they fired someone because of their sexual orientation, race or whatnot. In other words, that non-discrimination verbiage is assumed, if not law.

        Could A&E legitimately ask the Robertons

        “Do you think that homosexuality is a sin”

        Does A&E have any blame considering the outward stance on religion that they should have legitimately have known the answer before entering into contract with him?

        Take the Couric example, if she had expressed her stance on being a Nazi in an open manner BEFORE being hired by the network, could they fire her for now all of a sudden being a Nazi?

        A&E will say that Duck Douchebag is the same situation

        Now wait – you aren’t suggesting that everyone conform to your moral stance on the subject, are you? I get the idea that we don’t wanna discriminate or any of that mess, but you aren’t suggesting that everyone has to have the same spiritual take on the subject of homosexuality, or are you?

        Remember, Phil isn’t saying that folks who are gay don’t have the right to employment, dignity or everything else associated with respecting a person – he’s only saying that he thinks it’s a sin. And while I’m sure you would disagree with him, in essence, you’re just debating faith. And he goes further, he says that ALL people, regardless of their faith and specific sins, need to be loved. And further still – he says that the world would be a better place if we all offered that unconditional love. Sounds pretty universal and uncontroversial.

        With all of the uproar, I find this to be ironic:

        - Phil feels that a certain moral stance on homosexuality is wrong.
        - Many people feel that Phil’s moral stance on homosexuality is wrong.
        - Phil advocates loving folks who disagree with him anyway – it’s the right thing to do.
        - The people who disagree with Phil offer no such of love for him.

        I honestly think that, in this case, the people lacking in tolerance are those hating on Duck Commander. And that’s saying nothing of the merits of each “side’s” position in the debate.

        • http://www.poisonyourmind.com/ nickgb

          A&E gives him a platform for his celebrity, they market their network as affiliated with him. When he says things like this:

          “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph from there,” Robertson, 67, said when asked what is sinful. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

          it makes the network look bad. That’s why they have such broad morals clauses, they need to be able to control their network persona.

          No one is saying that he can’t feel the way he does. But people are saying that they don’t want to support a network that gives him millions of dollars and gives him this platform. And the network is saying they don’t want to be publicly tied to these beliefs. He has every right to feel the way he does and they have every right to say they aren’t going to employ, as an entertainer, someone who goes out and gives an interview that alienates their viewers.

          I find it amazing that people on the right think that being bigoted is equivalent to condemning bigotry. “Both are just intolerance!” It’s BS.

          As for saying that gays don’t have the right to dignity, etc., I think he says exactly that. He says that being gay is in the same moral ballpark as polygamy and bestiality. That’s pretty much condemning gays (unless he’s also fine with polygamy and bestiality).

          • Mike

            I work in an insurance brokerage firm. No doubt some of our clients are gay, divorced, living in sin, or doing any number of things that evangelical Christians would find morally objectionable.

            What if I began every conversation with a client by sharing my views on the sins I think they’re committing? Even if I’m saying it with kindness and not treating them with prejudice, wouldn’t my boss have a pretty strong case that my actions were bad for business?

            I think that’s what is at play here. It’s not a constitutional issue, and it doesn’t matter whether or not my boss knew that I held those views beforehand. Airing controversial religious or political views in a business venue is just bad for business.

          • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

            What if I began every conversation with a client by sharing my views on the sins I think they’re committing? Even if I’m saying it with kindness and not treating them with prejudice, wouldn’t my boss have a pretty strong case that my actions were bad for business?

            I think that’s what is at play here. It’s not a constitutional
            issue, and it doesn’t matter whether or not my boss knew that I held those views beforehand. Airing controversial religious or political views in a business venue is just bad for business.

            This is the hard part here.

            I personally feel that the point you are making is valid – yes, your employer should be able to fire you for things that are bad for business.

            But that isn’t what is at play here. Robertson’s views are, in fact, GOOD for business! The man prays at the end of every show – he’s been on TV for years and preaching his message to anyone who will listen.

            The more pertinent question would be this; you post your opinion of being gay or divorced or living in sin or whatever on Facebook, run a blog on it and have even preached in your local church on the topic. Then, your boss hires you to sell insurance to members of said church because they share your views.

            THEN you give an interview to Podunk TV and say nothing you haven’t said in the past decade. And get fired for that.

            THAT is what this is like.

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  • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

    That’s why they have such broad morals clauses, they need to be able to control their network persona.

    So, for the record, I fully support an employer being able to hire or fire an employee for any reason at any time. Not break contract, but extend employment.

    While I’m Christian, I have zero clue as to whether being homosexual is a sin in the eyes of Deity.

    No one is saying that he can’t feel the way he does.

    Sure – I get that. But can an employer ask, “Do you think homosexuality is a sin” as part of an interview process? If not, then you can’t fire him for having that view.

    Before the interview was published, what would your answer to this question be?

    “Do you think that an evangelical Christian redneck gun freak thinks that homosexuality is a sin?”

    If you answer, “yes”, then A&E should have reasonable burden in hiring the Robertsons.

    I find it amazing that people on the right think that being bigoted is equivalent to condemning bigotry.

    Except in this case he’s not being a bigot. He’s saying that a lifestyle choice is, in his calculus, a sin. He’ll sit with you, eat with you, be friends with you. He’ll love you and pray for you. He would attend birthday parties and graduations – love you if you were his kid.

    He’s just saying that he thinks it’s a sin.

    The Left here isn’t just saying that you have to exhibit tolerance, they are saying you have to agree. And if you don’t, hate for you.

    He says that being gay is in the same moral ballpark as polygamy and bestiality.

    Another “for the record moment”, people are freaking ridiculous when they insert bestiality – that I resonate with. It’s gross.

    However, he also claims that casual sex is a sin. As in premarital sex. Which is much less controversial. I suspect that many to most to near all Christians would suffer from a degree of discomfort when confronted with that scenario – and they are engaged in that type of sex all the time!

    And yet there is no hatred or accusations of bigotry or all of this other nonsense surrounding the idea that people who engage in sex sans marriage are somehow victims. In fact, I suspect that people would admit that, yes, premarital sex is a sin, yes I engage in that activity, but that a loving Deity is going to recognize it for what it is an offer forgiveness and salvation anyway.

    • http://www.poisonyourmind.com/ nickgb

      But can an employer ask, “Do you think homosexuality is a sin” as part of an interview process? If not, then you can’t fire him for having that view.

      This is the key distinction that you’re missing, it’s not the belief, it’s the interview. He isn’t being fired for having the view, he’s being fired for going out and doing a press event (an interview) and choosing to espouse the view. As a TV “celebrity”, he has a contractual obligation not to go out and do press events where he draws negative attention to his employer. If you hire an official spokesperson who goes out and says “My company believes X but personally I believe Y,” you can fire him. You aren’t firing him because he believes Y, you’re firing him because he went out and publicly talked about Y. That’s a key difference that makes all the difference.

      (As an aside: I’ll even wager that they have footage of him saying this stuff on camera that the edited out for broadcast, and I bet they warned him in advance.)

      Except in this case he’s not being a bigot. He’s saying that a lifestyle choice is, in his calculus, a sin.

      What would be required to be a bigot? Advocating for fewer rights for a group? Saying that a group is no better than goat-fuckers?

      However, he also claims that casual sex is a sin. As in premarital sex.

      Sure, he says it’s a sin, but he doesn’t compare it to bestiality. He compares being gay to bestiality. That’s a huge difference and I think you’re ignoring it on purpose to defend this guy’s moronic comments.

      Comparing homosexuality to bestiality IS the whole controversy. No one cares that he thinks it’s a sin, he could’ve said that all day long and no one would care. It’s when you cross that line to saying it’s like bestiality that people say “You’ve gone from conservative to bigoted. You’re not saying you disagree, you’re saying that these are bad people.” I can’t understand how you are missing this.

      • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

        This is the key distinction that you’re missing, it’s not the belief,
        it’s the interview. He isn’t being fired for having the view, he’s
        being fired for going out and doing a press event (an interview) and
        choosing to espouse the view.

        Yeah, I suspect that I’m unaware of the distinction between celebrity and normal employee. It would be interesting to know if Joe Six-pak could be fired from his factory job for saying the same things on, say, Facebook.

        Sure, he says it’s a sin, but he doesn’t compare it to bestiality.

        Sure he does:

        “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.

        He is mixing the two: gay sex and premarital sex.

        Anyway, look, as I mentioned, I am ALL FOR employers being free to terminate employment for any reason. And I think that I would terminate him for saying what he said as well. I’m just wondering if he is being terminated for expressing his religious beliefs?

        If so, I would expect a liberal to object to that in the same way that I would expect a liberal to object to an employer asking if an applicant believes that Jesus died for his sins as qualification for employment.

    • Lamb

      Just for the record, as it pertains to “for any reason”: Can a black man be fired for being part of a biracial couple?

      • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

        Just for the record, as it pertains to “for any reason”: Can a black man be fired for being part of a biracial couple?

        I don’t understand the question.

        This sounds less like a real valid “I don’t understand your position” kinda question that it does a “I’m gonna ask you a gotcha question” question.