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Posts Tagged ‘FIRST AMENDMENT’

FREEDOM OF SPEECH ISN’T FREE

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, Social commentary on December 19, 2013 at 1:10 am

There are several reasons to not watch “Duck Dynasty”:

  • You might be opposed to duck hunting–and the fact that the family of Phil Robertson has grown wealthy by selling duck-calling products.
  • Or you may be disgusted at the sight of long hair and beards, which the males in the Robertson family wear with abandon.
  • Or you might be turned off by the sight of so many shotguns and rifles, which the family loves to display.

These are perfectly legitimate reasons to switch channels when this A&E “reality series” comes on.

But there’s one reason that shouldn’t apply: Blacklisting Phil Robertson, the family patriarch, because he expressed his opinion during a Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ) interview.

GQ itself best summed up the image and values of the Robertsons: “a family of squirrel-eating, Bible-thumping, catchphrase-spouting duck hunters.”

Duck Dynasty Promo.jpg

So when A&E signed them up in 2012, the network should have known what it was promoting–and that the words “politically correct” didn’t apply.

Thus, the network shouldn’t have been surprised when Robertson, asked during an interview for his views on homosexuality, frankly stated them.

At 67, he is an unabashed Christian fundamentalist and a proud member (along with the rest of his family) of the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ.

Phil Robertson

“It seems like to me, a vagina–as a man–would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” said Robertson, a Louisiana native.  “That’s just me.  I’m just thinking.  There’s more there.  She’s got more to offer.

“I mean, come on, dudes!  You know what I’m saying?  But hey, sin: It’s not logical my nam.  It’s just not logical.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine.  Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.

“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers–they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution declares, in part:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech….”

Thus, the most important legislative body in the nation is strictly forbidden from interferring with the rights of Americans to express their opinions.

Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers didn’t have the foresight to imagine wealthy conglomerates such as A&E usurping powers that were denied to Congress.

Thus, when the issue of GQ hit the newsstand–and the Internet–A&E quickly announced that it was indefinitely suspending Phil Robertson from appearing on the “Duck Dynasty” series.

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty.

“His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

The network stated that the rest of the family (who almost certainly share his views, but haven’t done so publicly) would remain on the program.

Of course, the homosexual/lesbian/transgender community were outraged by Robertson’s views–which were precisely those of an Old Testatment-quoting patriarch.

And they have every right to be upset.  They have long been and continue to be targets of abuse–much of it violent.  And no doubt they see Robertson’s views as justifying further such abuse aimed at them.

And they weren’t shy about expressing their views about Robertson–and his beliefs.  According to a statement released by GLAAD (formerly Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation):

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.

“He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans–and Americans–who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.

“Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

From a First Amendment perspective, so far, so good–two diametrically opposing opinions on a vital social issue.  May the best argument win.

But according to A&E, there can be only one prevailing view on homosexuality–whatever view the network’s topmost officials decide is correct at any given moment.

This is the liberal version of the 1950s “Red Scare” reign of Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.  Anyone accused of being a “Communist,” a “Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” could suddenly find himself out of work.

This was especially so in the area of television–where simply being labeled “controversial” could earn you a pink slip.

Love him or loathe him, Robertson has never hidden his views from anyone.

A&E surely knew what it was getting when it signed him and his Louisiana family up for this “reality series” which brings in huge profits from its 14 million viewers.

Only when those profits are threatened by the public statement of views that A&E officials surely knew long ago has the network tried to distance itself from its ratings-winner.

FIRST AMENDMENT DANGERS

In Business, Law, Social commentary on June 13, 2013 at 12:07 am

WARNING: Believing that the First Amendment gives you the legal right to express your opinion may be hazardous to your career.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Of course, that refers only to Congress.  It says nothing about employers–and especially those self-appointed pseudo-gods who claim to be the personification of virtue and infallibility.

If you doubt it, just ask Johnny Cook, who until recently worked as a bus driver for the Haralson County Middle School in Georgia.

In late May, a sixth-grade student boarding Cook’s school bus said he was still hungry.  Cook asked why, and the student said he hadn’t been given any lunch.

The reason: He had been forty cents short for buying a reduced lunch.  So he hadn’t been given anything, not even the peanut butter offered to everyone else.

Furious, Cook vented his spleen on his Facebook page on May 21:

“This child is already on reduced lunch [program] and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? I’m certian  there was leftover food thrown away today.

“But kids were turned away because they didn’t have .40 on there account. As a tax payer I would much rather feed a child than throw it away. I would rather feed a child than to give food stamps to a crack head.”

Just two days later, Cook was fired over that post.

Photo

Johnny Cook and friends

The “official reason,” as given by Superintendent Brett Stanton, was that Cook had violated the school’s social media policy by daring to express his opinion publicly.

The policy states:

Students who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that cause a substantial disruption to the instructional environment are subject to disciplinary procedures.

“Employees who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that causes a substantial disruption to the instructional environment are subject to disciplinary procedures up and including termination.”

This is similar to the policies–and atmosphere–of the Joseph McCarthy “smear and fear” era of the 1950s.  You didn’t have to actually be proven an actual Communist, or even a Communist sympathizer.

All that was neeeded to condemn you to permanent unemployment was to become “controversial.”  That way, the employer didn’t have to actually prove the employee’s unfitness.

The Almighty Employer need only declare: “Your usefulness to me is over.”

Consider the statement offered by Superintendent Stanton:  “I can assure you it did not happen,” he told the CBS affiliate in Atlanta.

And how could he be so certain?  Because, said Stanton, he had thoroughly investigated the incident.

“The video surveillance footage clearly shows that the student never went through the lunch lines at the county middle school,” Stanton said.

Therefore, Stanton said, the boy couldn’t have been offered the bagged lunch for students in his situation.

When asked if someone should have noticed the boy wasn’t eating lunch, he had a ready excuse for that: “When you have almost 1,000 students, it’s very difficult to notice.”

Stanton wouldn’t discuss Cook’s termination because it’s a personnel matter, but did say the school district has a strict Facebook policy.

CBS Atlanta contacted the sixth-grader’s family–who backed up Cook’s story.

Cook, who is married and the father of two kids, told CBS Atlanta that he felt in his “heart of hearts the kid was telling the truth.”

A petition has been posted to Change.org demanding that Cook be reinstated.  It has so far gained more than 10,000 signatures.

Nor is Cook the only victim of employers who have no regard for the First Amendment.

Ashley Warden, a waitress at an Oklahoma City Chili’s insulted “stupid cops” on her Facebook page.   In 2012, her potty-training toddler pulled down his pants in his grandmother’s front yard–and a passing officer gave Warden a public urination ticket for $2,500.

Warden was quickly fired.  In an official statement, Chilli’s gave this excuse:

“With the changing world of digital and social media, Chili’s has Social Media Guidelines in place, asking our team members to always be respectful of our guests and to use proper judgement when discussing actions in the work place.  After looking into the matter, we have taken action to prevent this from happening again.”

Put more honestly: “We have taken action to prevent” other employees from daring to exercise their own First Amendment rights.

Employers need to be legally forced to show as much respect for the free speech rights of Americans as Congress is required to.

Until this happens, the workplace will continue to resemble George Orwell’s vision of 1984–a world where anyone can become a “non-person” for the most trivial of reasons.

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