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Religion, Collusion, and Bigotry, part 2

Blogger’s note: This was begun as a single blog post, but prior to publishing was broken into two parts: part 1, and part 2. 

In part 1 I focused on the connection of Religion and Bigotry. In this part I want to focus on the second issue I’ve bee thinking of, and that is the way the US Constitution gets abused in the connection between Religion and Bigotry.I’d call this part, religious entitlement. I mentioned in part 1 that I had participated in two Facebook discussions-

The second [Facebook] thread happened just last evening by a different group of folks I would have considered critical thinkers talking in a more broad cultural context, yet in this thread, the notion of Free Speech was heralded as the battle cry while the discussion focused only on Robertson’s comments about homosexual sin. While I wasn’t surprised at the fervent defense in the first dialogue, I was floored that such a fallacious argument was even mentioned in the latter.

As I struggled to try and grasp how smart people could try and use Free Speech and the 1st Amendment to defend Robertson’s bigotry, I gained a new understanding. Especially as the discussion proceeded away from his comments on homosexuality, towards some of his other infamous ramblings, like the cited video where Robertson encourages marrying underage girls. Immediately, the defenders shifted to Obama and how he is destroying American Values. Really! Yes, free speech defends his comments about the Gays, but other crazy stuff Robertson says? Better to change the subject. :-)

Our Founding Fathers had a reason to make the 1st Amendment about speech and religion among other things. Indeed, the 1st Amendment contains six specific parts, but too often these seem to be reduced to free speech and freedom of religion. Phil’s defenders want to condense it further, and imply that anything said about anything religious may not be questioned, confronted or critiqued, although the 1st Amendment says nothing of that kind. In Revolutionary America’s context, they were very much fighting against an imperialist government demanding their adherence to a State-sponsored religious doctrine, and the outlawing of any other religious practices. The amendment protects any citizen against being punished by the government for their religious expression. The amendment has no relation to the Robertson episode in any way, shape, or form. No one and especially no government in any way attempted to punish Robertson.

Bigotry, by definition is all about remaining steadfast in one’s opinion regardless of the facts or other ideas which dispute or disprove that opinion. In other words, using the 1st Amendment as justification even when it has nothing to do with this incident at all.

But there is an element to the Duck Dynasty piece which isn’t at all about the 1st Amendment. Rather, it is simply the basis of the family’s agreement with A&E: (from the GQ interview)

And then, of course, there is their faith, which plays no small role here. During the family’s initial negotiations about the show with A&E, Jase told me, “the three no-compromises were faith, betrayal of family members, and duck season.” That refusal to betray their faith or one another has been a staple of every media article about the Robertson family. It’s their elevator pitch, and it has made them into ideal Christian icons: beloved for staking out a bit of holy ground within the mostly secular, often downright sinful, pop culture of America.

Here is the reason why Free Speech was such a rallying cry for the show’s supporters. Robertson wasn’t doing anything in the interview that was contrary to what A&E had agreed to or knew he would do. It doesn’t matter if you agree with him or not, he was expressing his personal view about sin as he sees it, and that is part of what the viewers of the show like about the show. The Robertson clam has accomplished what the garden variety Christian churches have been unable to do for the past decade of so- made religious ideas likable. And with the market shared enjoyers by this show, it is clear they are extremely liked.

However, for his defenders, this gets connected to the 1st Amendment, because there really is no logical explanation for it. Why on earth was this snip about homosexuals even in the GQ interview? Phil’s supporters can’t answer that so the only conceivable defense is to attack anyone who says anything about it. I think it is there, because GQ wanted to cause controversy, and they wanted to do it early in the interview. The interview’s writer set the bomb, Phil just provided the dynamite with which the bomb was loaded.

Religious zealots and others want to believe that all speech that deals with religion is protected. But the 1st Amendment doesn’t do that, and it is in our democracy’s best interest for many of us to start screaming about this loud and clear. It does:

The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation.” Of federal territorial laws, the Court said: “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices.”

In other words, it isn’t about what people can and can not do, but rather what the government can and can not do- an extremely important distinction.