Let’s just get this out of the way. The First Amendment protects popular and unpopular speech from government regulation. This recognized and protected fundamental civil liberty should be celebrated.
But the right to free speech is also a two-way street. In short, you have the right to express an opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free from criticism or derision from those who disagree.
A&E is a private company and can do what it wants, provided it’s within the terms of contractual agreements, just as MSNBC seemingly forced out Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir. With that said, if you don’t agree with its decision to suspend Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, you don’t have to watch the network or buy from its advertisers. Indeed, the free market is a great thing.
Enter Piers Morgan.
The CNN talk host weighed in on the controversy on Thursday with this tweet:
Just as the 2nd Amendment shouldn’t protect assault rifle devotees, so the 1st Amendment shouldn’t protect vile bigots. #PhilRobertson
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 19, 2013
Now it’s a free speech issue.
The rights protected in the First Amendment may be a foreign concept to a British national. After all, his home country treats all rights as plenary. But it’s disappointing, though not surprising, that a man who makes his living as an opinion talk show host in the United States under the protections of the First Amendment is so willing to discard it.
Look, whether or not you agree with the substance of Robertson’s comments is completely irrelevant. These are his religious convictions. He’s not only entitled to them, he has a right to promulgate them, whether or not he’s doing so in an interview with GQ or in a sermon at a church.
In fact, the Bible teaches Christians to spread its message. We can debate the way in which Robertson expressed his views all day long and whether he was productive in spreading the gospel. It’s a discussion worth having.
But whether you like it or not, the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. There’s no way of getting around that, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a straight Christian man would accept that part of biblical doctrine.
Does Morgan believe the Bible is a bigoted book which should no longer be protected under the First Amendment? Should it be given the same treatment that some Christians wanted to give the Harry Potter series? These are questions that someone should directly ask him.
The First Amendment not only protects Morgan’s to speak his mind about limiting the rights of those who he disagrees. It also protected artists in the 1980’s from anti-speech fascists at the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). It protects the rights of those who do express anti-Christian views. The First Amendment even protects mindless racists. It also protects this author’s right to denounce and make fun of racists, whenever possible.
The great truly thing about freedom is that people have the choice to reject biblical teachings and completely ignore them, as a growing number of people are doing. In the end, public discussion about contentious, religious, social, and political issues is healthy, and it should be welcomed, but you don’t have to agree with it. You don’t even have to listen to it, as Morgan is learning with his anemic ratings. But all of this is what makes the power of choice that comes with freedom so great.