Religious leaders and organizations are coming to the defense of "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson, who was suspended from the hit cable-television reality show after making graphic remarks about homosexuality.
The Christian group Faith Driven Consumer launched a petition, urging A&E network to reinstate Robertson and apologize to him.
"Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ Magazine are simply reflective of a Biblical view of sexuality, marriage, and family — a view that has stood the test of time for thousands of years and continues to be held by the majority of Americans and today’s world as a whole," the petition states.
In his GQ interview, Robertson, who is outspoken about his religious views on the reality show, was asked his definition of sinful behavior.
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," such as bestiality, he said. He then paraphrased a New Testament passage: "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 comments, along with some offensive and graphic comments Robertson made about male and female anatomy, outraged gay rights activists who applauded A&E decision to suspend Robertson indefinitely from the popular show, the entertainment publication Variety reported.
Robertson has also been called out for saying in the interview that he never saw "the mistreatment of any black person. Not once," while growing up in Louisiana. But the Associated Press reported that A&E has not received any complaints about those comments.
Most of Thursday, religious leaders have come to Robertson's defense, saying while the man's choice of words was unfortunate he shouldn't be vilified and punished for expressing his religious beliefs.
“We’re a divided country on sexual issues. That’s why every news cycle brings more controversy. Why not engage one another, and have the debates in a civil fashion, without attempting to silence one another. I don’t agree with David Letterman’s views on divorce and cohabitation, but I don’t want him suspended for voicing them," wrote Russell Moore, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“Let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.”
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that Robertson's experience should serve as a lesson to other people of faith who have to also maintain a public profile.
"Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality," Mohler wrote. "You have been warned."
Pastor Nate Pyle offered another warning for his Christian audience.
"Granted, Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin and choose to voice that belief in such graphic and unhelpful language will probably bear the brunt of such consequences more than others," Pyle wrote. "Just know that as you prepare to speak. By no means am I advocating that you don’t say what you believe. But don’t get graphic with body parts and innuendos and slurs to make your point. Those have consequences."
He, and other bloggers, said cries that Robertson's religious freedom and First Amendment right to speak his mind had been violated are misinformed.
They point out that Robertson isn't going the jail and businesses, like A&E, have the right to censor an employee or contractor who doesn't represent their views.
"And if you don't believe me — try walking into your boss' office and call him or her a big fat idiot with ugly children," wrote CNN's LZ Granderson. "Then see if 'freedom of speech' helps you keep your job."