Our Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech means that as private citizens, we’re free to express our opinions on almost anything we want without fear of legal persecution.
That being said, as an employee or representative of any particular company or group, we do face repercussions for what we say or do in our private lives. What if some pro athlete decided to hold anti-Semitic rallies professing their admiration for Hitler? You don’t think he/she would be suspended by their team and probably the league for which they played?
They wouldn’t be arrested because they would be free to express their views as a private citizen, but that doesn’t mean that as an employee their actions wouldn’t warrant repercussions from their employer.
Well, someone apparently needs to explain this simple concept to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, because he doesn’t understand it. He chimed in on this situation today, saying:
“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.”
And he’s right — this is a free country and Mr. Robertson is free to express his views, which is why he stands zero chance at ending up in jail for his comments. That’s what freedom of speech means. It does not recuse him of any consequences publicly for things he says.
Also, let’s be clear here: It isn’t as if Mr. Robertson expressed a simple opinion about his negative views toward homosexuality. Had he simply said something like, “Based on how I was raised, I simply disagree with homosexuality,” this probably wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. I think it’s safe to say most people assumed he wasn’t a supporter of LGBT rights anyway.
But that’s not what he said. He went on some ignorant rant about men and anal sex, connected it to bestiality, and then insinuated that homosexuality is full of promiscuity. He basically embraced nearly every ignorant stereotype about homosexuality that’s out there.
So it isn’t just what his opinion about homosexuality happens to be, but how he chose to express it.
Again, is Mr. Robertson in jail right now? Nope. Because we have freedom of speech in this country. That’s what freedom of speech means. It doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you want without repercussions for your words.
What if he had said something like, “Well, I believe all women are good for nothing but being barefoot and pregnant. They’re obviously a lesser gender that’s incapable of competing with their male counterparts.” Would people still be rushing to his defense? Sure, some probably would — but far less than what we’re seeing now.
Once again, this is not an attack on free speech, as Mr. Robertson has not been arrested for what he said. His suspension is a consequence of what he said and the view by many that he’s a poor representative for A&E. I’m almost certain that the contract he signed with them has a clause in it stipulating that as a public figure and representative of the company, he must abide by certain rules. This is just common sense.
And when you represent a company, your “speech” will always carry consequences. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to say what you want, you just better be prepared for what follows.
These are facts that the people freaking out over his suspension seem unable to understand — including Governor Jindal.
He’s free to say what he wants as a private citizen. But as a celebrity and representative of A&E, his free speech carries employment consequences with it.
End of story.
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