Frank Schaefer, Phil Robertson and the First Amendment

The Bill of Rights in the National Archives

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States 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.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Minister defrocked over same-sex marriage, will appeal
Tricia L. Nadolny, Inquirer Staff Writer | Last updated: Friday, December 20, 2013, 2:01 AM | Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013, 10:35 AM

The Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked Thursday for refusing to abide by the United Methodist Church’s policies on homosexuality, writing another chapter in a case that stirred a wider call for social change when he was put on trial for officiating at his son’s gay wedding.

Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pa., had hoped that the church’s Board of Ordained Ministers would allow him to keep his credentials, effectively letting him stand as a voice for gay rights in a church deeply divided over its ban on same-sex weddings and gay clergy.

That group met for just 15 minutes at the Norristown offices of the church’s Eastern Pennsylvania conference before making its decision.

“I said to myself, ‘I just cannot see them take my credentials.’ I mean, what I did was an act of love for my son,” Schaefer said Thursday at a news conference at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

More at the link. The Reverend Mr Schafer had been tried by the Methodist Church’s jury, which had ordered him to either reaffirm his commitment to Church doctrine or step down; the former minister declined to do either. Mr Schaefer will appeal, trying to use some sort of loophole, but the instructions in the Bible, the book Mr Schaefer professes to believe, are completely clear: homosexual activity is a violation of God’s law, and a bar to the gates of heaven.

Now, Mr Schaefer has an absolute right to believe whatever he wishes and say whatever he desires, and the Bill of Rights absolutely protects that from all government interference or penalties. But the United Methodist Church is not the government, and it has every right to choose whom it will or will not credential as ministers, and whom it will or will not have preach in its churches.

In related news:

‘Duck Dynasty’ family stands by suspended patriarch
By Holly Yan and Dana Ford, CNN | updated 12:50 AM EST, Fri December 20, 2013

(CNN) — The family behind A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” rallied around its patriarch Thursday, one day after the network suspended Phil Robertson over controversial remarks he made about gays and blacks in a magazine interview.

“While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Phil would never incite or encourage hate,” the Robertsons said in a statement.

The family called into question the future of the show.

“We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty,” it said.

In the January issue of GQ, Robertson said homosexuality is a sin and puts it in the same category as bestiality and promiscuity.

More at the link. Mr Robertson was basically paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. A&E network has suspended Mr Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty. Like Mr Schaefer above, Mr Robertson has the right to say anything he wishes, without any interference from the government, and like the United Methodist Church, A&E has the right to cablecast or not cablecast anything it wishes. And free people have a right to either attend or not attend the Methodist Church, or watch or not watch A&E network. There are no First Amendment issues in either case, because the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and of religion from abridgement by the government.
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