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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal attends a funeral Mass for artist George Rodrigue, at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson - suspended from the series indefinitely after making disparaging remarks about gays - is getting some support from key followers, including Jindal. He lamented the suspension on free speech terms. "It's a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended," he said in a statement Thursday. The show is filmed in his state. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Nobody is taking 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch's free speech rights away

Those defending the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch's right to express his racist, homophobic opinions are completely missing the point.

The people of Louisiana ought to be distressed that their governor, Bobby Jindal, is among those who fundamentally misunderstand our right to freedom of speech.

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"This is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views," Jindahl wrote on his website. "In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment."

If you actually read the Constitution, it says, "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech."

When A&E suspended Phil Robertson for his statements comparing gays to "the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers" and those who practice "bestiality"; for his declared his belief that African-Americans were all "happy" before the Civil Rights movement came along, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Congress making laws abridging the freedom of speech.

And the Constitution does not protect anyone from the consequences of free speech. You can say whatever you want, but you must then deal with the repercussions.

I have the right to express whatever views I wish, but that doesn't mean The Salt Lake Tribune can't fire me if I say something particularly offensive in a public forum. The vast majority of Americans are in the same boat. Including Robertson.

And those who are attacking A&E for suspending Robertson are seeking to take the network's rights away. A&E issued a statement about the "Duck Dynasty" star's punishment, saying, "His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community."

You don't have a constitutional right to star in a TV reality show. You don't have a constitutional right to embarrass and undercut your employer.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, "If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over treatment of Phil Robertson."

No, you shouldn't. Robertson's free speech and religious liberties were in no way impeded. His rights are intact.

So are the rights of his employers.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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