The controversy sweeping the nation following an Esquire magazine interview with "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson has produced an amazing number of First Amendment scholars. The problem is, this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. What it does have to do with is people's tolerance level of other people's views, and employers' rights to act if they believe their business could be damaged.
Robertson was quoted in the magazine, saying that homosexuality is immoral and depraved. He also said in the same interview that black people he knew were happy and content before civil rights laws were implemented. As a result of his comments, the cable company A&E suspended him from his family's wildly popular reality TV show "Duck Dynasty." The family has threatened that they might cancel the show.
Outcry has come from every direction from his interview and suspension. Those who dislike what he said claim he should adhere to public decency. Those who support him claim his freedom of speech has been stepped on.
First off, he wasn't arrested for speaking his mind, so this isn't about freedom of speech. His employer, like many employers would, decided to suspend him for what he said, which they obviously believe could hurt their business. Almost any of us working for someone else would face firing if we pronounced something that a segment of the customer base might find repulsive. So even if a person doesn't like what A&E did, they certainly had the right - just like Robertson had the right to say what he thinks.
On the other side of the coin are the people who are so offended by what Robertson said. Tolerance is a difficult thing when it comes to free speech. It means you also have to live with someone else's opinion that runs counter to your own - and accept it.
One of our country's biggest problems these days is so many people's inability to hear an opposing viewpoint without blowing a gasket and either telling the other person to leave the country or calling them un-American or some other silly name. There's nothing more American than to have opposing viewpoints and sharing them. It's the basis of our country and much of why it was formed in the first place.
Somehow too many Americans cannot stand hearing an opposing viewpoint without denigrating that person instead of arguing their own point. It shows shallowness and even ignorance when people respond this way.
A segment of the U.S. population agrees with Robertson on these matters. Another group disagrees. That's the way it is on issues such as these. You have the right to speak but you also face consequences and criticism as well. It's always been that way. We've just reached a whole new level of outrage in our country, and that's the ugliest part in all of this.