This is this is the excerpt of Mr. Robertson’s GQ interview that troubles me enough to write a post about it [emphasis mine]:
As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
I don’t care about the fact that he’s framing this as a folksy way of saying “oh, I just witness to people and let them do what they do.” That only makes it more insidious. What I care about are his actual words, and if you don’t already know what those words really imply, take a look at the image at the top of this post.
Whether Phil Robertson himself intended his words as a threat or not is beside the point. The words are a threat because “Let God sort them out” is such a well-established phrase that anyone with half a brain who reads it makes that connection without being told what it means. We’ve all seen the t-shirts.
The full phrase seems to have originated in 1209, when it was used as a greenlight for a massacre. I first started seeing it associated with U.S. Special Forces imagery on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and tattoos in the 1980’s. I have no idea whether it’s an official patch or not. My point here is that it is so ubiquitous, and has been for so long, that it is acceptable for me to say, to Phil Robertson and his defenders:
“Aw, c’mon man. You know what that means.”
And even if you and Phil Robertson are so ignorant that you honestly do not know what it means, well, guess what? Millions of other people do, and we are tired of that bullshit.
If you are an American, you live in a country where people are subjected to physical violence because of their sexual orientation, and it is something that is happening right now. Not 10 years ago or 100. If you are a decent human being, that should make you uncomfortable or angry or something. At the very least, it should make you think twice about defending Mr. Robertson.
Not a First Amendment issue
Free speech only applies to government censorship. A&E is NOT a a government agency. Therefore, there is no free speech issue here. CNN says so. My friends at Scholars and Rogues say so. Think Progress also says so, and the U.S Courts say the same thing in slightly more difficult language. Everything they say tracks with my understanding of First Amendment rights in this country. If I thought otherwise, I would certainly tell you.
The same applies to the free exercise of religion. No government involvement equals no free exercise issue.
And one more thing. Since when did owning up to the fact that someone you like said some stupid shit in GQ become such a big deal that it’s worth bringing the Lord and Savior into it? Using religious freedom to defend this guy doesn’t help the situation. It trivializes martyrdom and makes a mockery of freedom of conscience, is what it does.
Image: Shadows in Eden