Immediately, Christians and conservatives around the world have clamoured and claimed that A&E is violating Mr. Robertson's freedom of speech.
But that claim is dead wrong. I'd just like to let you all know at this point that I support Phil Robertson. I believe in all that he said, but I will not change my opinion of freedom based on the political agenda that is being propagated.
Freedom of speech is a civil right. This means it is a right guaranteed us by the Constitution and Bill of Rights (and later the Civil Rights Act), all of which act to restrain government from interfering in our lives (the Civil Rights Act goes a little further; more on that later). As the great Richard Castle (yes, the fictional character) has said,
"Technically, I'd have to be the government to violate your civil rights."A&E as a private institution is incapable of violating the civil rights of others. (As far as I can tell, A&E did not stop Mr. Robertson's controversial comments; thus, he was allowed to exercise free speech.) Instead, they themselves have a civil right to running their businesses in a way they see fit. This may seem ridiculous to you, but all private organizations have the right to discriminate against anyone for any reason. We can argue that it is wrong of them to do so (and generally it is), but it is not within governmental jurisdiction to force businesses or any private individual to act in a manner that government sees fit.
The same conservatives speaking out against this "civil rights violation" done by A&E have made the same argument on numerous occasions. A month ago, a cake business refused service to homosexuals. There was outrage, there was want of a government intervention, but conservatives correctly pointed out it was not the government's business.
But now the stakes have changed, pushing down a more conservative agenda, and oh how much difference we see from the world around us. We have to let our principles stand no matter what supports our agenda.
This path that we have been taken on both sides of the political aisle could have massive negative repercussions to freedom in America. In Britain, this idea is completely ingrained in the law. So when Mr. and Mrs. Bull elected not to allow any unwed couples to stay in the same room together, they were sued for discrimination, and ultimately were forced to sell their business. All because the state didn't agree with their decisions. You see, companies have their own civil rights, and if we're not careful, if we try to protect the individual's civil rights beyond how it applies to government, we will fall in a trap of violating their rights. Remember, that businesses are run by people, not machines. The CEOs are afforded the same right as individuals.
Robin Koerner of benswann.com explains this situation perfectly,
"Logically, Mr and Mrs Bull can only have committed a crime if the couple they turned away had an actual right to be served by them. Yet, the Bulls are not compelled to offer their service to anyone. So how can it be that party A’s (the Bulls) making a free choice to transact with party B (a married couple) creates a new right for party C (unmarried couple)? What kind of right would that be?"This strikes to the very core of the issue. Everyone must have the right to their own private property, to handle it as they see fit and appropriate. Ludwig von Mises called it, "The cornerstone of every civilization." It is threatened by this ideology that has taken control of the British system.
But we in America are not much better. As you have seen, this mindset is already set in the minds of many Americans. But not only is it in the people, it is in the legislation. The Civil Rights Act for all its virtues has one major vice. It seeks to enforce its views of anti-discrimination onto private individuals and organizations.
As Senator Rand Paul explains,
"There are ten different titles to the Civil Rights Act and nine out of ten deal with public institutions and I am absolutely in favor of [them]. One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that. But the other thing about legislation – and this is why it is a little hard to say where you are sometimes – is that when you support nine out of ten things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it?”The Duck Dynasty drama and debate is about a much more complicated and important phenomenon than whether A&E or Duck Dynasty are right about their views about homosexuality. Instead it sticks to the very heart of freedom. We should be afraid of the ramifications of how quick we are to apply civil rights to businesses. We should no longer push for such moves so religiously.