I’ve been trying for clarity on my stance on this, both in my own mind, and in the message I’m trying to put forth. Let me give it one more shot.
As an atheist, a libertarian, and a strong supporter of gay rights, I disagree with Phil Robertson’s views on homosexuality.
But he has an unalienable right to hold and express those views, and that unalienable right is further protected from state infringement by the United States Constitution.
The company employing him has a balancing right of free association, and the right to decide whether or not it wishes to employ him under conditions of at-will employment, if they feel he is damaging their brand, or pushing a message with which they don’t wish to be associated.
How to balance this?
First, we don’t wish to disturb either side’s rights here. We don’t wish to have the state infringe on Robertson’s First Amendment rights, nor do we want the state infringing on an employer’s right to freedom of association.
Conservatives would be equally up in arms if folks were trying to force a religious company not to fire an employee who was preaching atheism in a way that company found damaginig to its brand, or in messages the company didn’t wish to be associated with.
For me, this is not a question of rights. Because if it is, Robertson loses every time. His rights to free expression have not been infringed by the state, so the constitutional argument about rights is irrelevant. The governing right is the one that affects his employer’s right to fire him, and from my point of view, there should be no question they have that right.
Nor does it matter why they exercise that right: Whether of their own volition, or because of progressive pressure coming from a hatred of Christianity and those who preach its message, the right itself is still inviolate.
The real question is whether A&E should fire Robertson, and my position is that they should not. Their hands are not clean here. They created the show. They knew who, and what, the Robertson family was. They hired them anyway, put them on the air, and made a ton of money off them. Yet now they profess to be shocked at the leader of the family publicly espousing a fairly vanilla Christian opinion about homosexuality.
Which makes them hypocrites of the first water, and, as we all know, if progressives have any list of cardinal secular sins, hypocrisy is near the top of the list.
So, in summary:
Phil Robertson has the right to espouse an opinion I find reprehensible, and A&E has the right to fire him for expressing it. But if they do so, that makes them hypocritical assholes, so they really shouldn’t do it. Though they can.
Clear enough, yet?
UPDATE: Any lawyers out there want to take a crack at explaining Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964‘s impact on this case, if any?