Freedom of speech is debated; 'Duck Dynasty' flap engenders opinions.

Author:Russell, James F.

Byline: James F. Russell

With disdain, persecution and violence directed against homosexuals still commonplace worldwide despite social and legal gains achieved in parts of the United States and western Europe, Christians opposed to the normalization of gay lifestyles say their ability to speak freely on the issue is under attack.

They say expressing their beliefs about homosexuality subjects them to ridicule and retribution.

They point to the recent plight of reality television star Phil Robertson of the popular "Duck Dynasty'' show on the A&E cable channel.

Mr. Robertson was "indefinitely'' banished from the network on Dec. 18 related to statements he made in a magazine interview about homosexuality. But he was welcomed back to the network less than 10 days later, after hundreds of thousands of Duck Dynasty fans protested the A&E action.

Controversy erupted around the Duck Dynasty patriarch after GQ Magazine published an interview in which Mr. Robertson shared his views on homosexuality -- statements the cable network and activists around the country condemned.

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around ... 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,'' Mr. Robertson said in the GQ interview.

He also said: "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?''

Locally, the social division involving homosexuality is mirrored in the leadership of various Christian denominations.

"Until the pope says gay people are created beautifully in the image of God, he is a part of the continued oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community around the world,'' the Rev. Judith Hanlon, pastor at Hadwen Park Congregational Church, United Church of Christ said in an interview Thursday.

"Suicide with gay kids is eight times more likely. If you think God hates you, why the hell would you want to stay alive? All that bull is killing kids. I just don't take prisoners on that one,'' she said. "Seventy percent of our church are ex-Catholics and ex-fundamentalists. The fundamentalism, as far as I am concerned,...

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