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Phil Robertson preaching at a Pennsylvania church in 2010

The suspension of reality TV star Phil Robertson from his top-rated show for essentially citing what the Bible says about homosexual behavior is a religious-rights issue as much as it is a free-speech concern, according to Christian ministers.

A&E’s suspension Wednesday of the patriarch of the devout evangelical Christian family featured in the A&E network hit “Duck Dynasty” for his remarks in a GQ article came just before the New Mexico Supreme Court voted unanimously to redefine marriage to include two men or two women, notes Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, who has battled “gay” marriage all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Americans are just now waking up to the fact that homosexual rights are trumping religious rights,” said Staver.

“As families are gathering together for Christmas, the kitchen table is abuzz about the ‘Duck Dynasty’ controversy, the deterioration of our cultural values, and the impact this cultural deterioration is having on religious freedom,” Staver said.

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Robertson’s paraphrase of a passage in the biblical book of 1 Corinthians set off a firestorm Wednesday that led to A&E’s decision to suspend him from the show.

The backlash against Robertson’s statements escalated Friday when a video was unearthed of a 2010 sermon in which he cited the Apostle Paul’s condemnation of homosexual behavior in the first chapter of Romans.

The controversy is cause for concern for Christian and Jewish ministers who teach the traditional interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexual behavior.

With a growing intolerance for religious teaching on the subject following “hate crimes” legislation in 2009, could American ministers soon find themselves in the position of Swedish pastor Ake Green?

Green was sentenced to a month in jail on June 29, 2004, for showing “disrespect” to homosexuals in a sermon at his church in the small town of Borgholm that he titled “Are people born with homosexual orientation or is it the result of influence by evil powers?”

In 2002, the Swedish Parliament had enacted a law that criminalized expressions of “disrespect” against homosexuals. Just before the law was enacted, the Swedish Prime Minister made it clear that referring to homosexual behavior as “unnatural” would be a criminal act.

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When the case was heard before the Swedish Supreme Court, the prosecutor asked Green why he delivered the sermon.

Green explained he had a “responsibility according to the Scripture to clear my own conscience and to let people know that the way they live is wrong.”

Ultimately, he said, however, he taught that if people “turn around and follow Christ they will not come under judgment.”

“And then I let the people decide if they want to keep their lifestyle of homosexuality or turn around,” he said.

The Swedish Supreme Court acquitted him on all charges Nov. 29, 2005, but only because it was bound by the European Court of Human Rights.

A law signed by President Obama in 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanded the federal “hate crimes” law to include crimes motivated by a victims actual or “perceived” gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

As WND reported, opponents fear it can be used to crack down on Christian speech, even the teaching of the Bible.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said at the time the law was a move toward criminalizing thought and saw it as a threat to people who declare religious beliefs that are not culturally acceptable.

In Oklahoma in 2011, a church faced threats for its biblical stand on homosexuality.

In 2011, WND reported, the Department of Homeland Security was monitoring a website that condemned homosexual behavior.

‘Much more scathing’

As in the response to Robertson’s GQ interview, media reports on Robertson’s 2010 sermon at the Berean Bible Church in Pennsylvania, captured on video, displayed an ignorance of the Bible and age-old Christian teaching.

Reporter Sarah Fruchtnicht complained that Robertson made “much more scathing remarks about homosexuality” in the 2010 sermon.

She pointed out Robertson said that because homosexuals gave up “the knowledge of God” they were given “over to shameful lust.” She didn’t mention, however, that he was declaring precisely what Romans 1:26 states.

The New York Daily News reported that in the video Robertson “seems to denounce homosexuals as ‘insolent, arrogant, God-haters’ punctuating his rant by blowing on the duck whistle that made him famous.”

TMZ trumpeted that A&E “knew all about ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson feelings toward gays when it hired him – because the guy openly preached that gays were going to hell years before the series started.”

Meanwhile, Greg Laurie, an evangelist, author and public speaker who pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California, observed that Christians have been put in the impossible position of being required to not merely tolerate homosexual behavior but to endorse it.

He insisted Christians don’t want to force their views on anyone.

“We believe in God, the Creator and designer of the world and all of its creatures,” he said. “We believe He has provided, as the Bible teaches, an intended design for sex and marriage. We choose to hold to that, while being tolerant of those who choose to disregard it.”

He said Christians “stand with Scripture on the topic of homosexuality and every other sin the Bible speaks of.”

“And we will continue to tolerate and even love those that disagree with us,” he said. “It would be nice if that were a two-way street.”

In a statement, Staver’s Liberty Council said that whether or not A&E violated Robertson’s legal rights, it “most surely violated a fundamental principle of American society: that people have the right to express their religious viewpoints without being punished.”

“Liberty strongly condemns A&E’s intolerant and inflexible bullying of Phil Robertson and its insensitivity to its viewers, most of whom agree with Robertson’s religious viewpoint,” the statement said.

Doug Napier, senior vice president of legal for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said America’s “long tradition of free and open discussion about important cultural issues is the cornerstone of a healthy society.”

“This move is more evidence of the one-sided censorship of the cultural and political elites outraged by such a basic teaching,” he said.

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, author, radio talk-show host, and founder and president of BOND, the Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny, called A&E’s decision an “attack on the First Amendment and freedom of speech and religion.”

“Robertson expressed his personal views about morality, faith and traditional families,” Peterson said. “He didn’t make the statements on the show. He did not condemn or attack gays, nor did he single them out. In fact, Robertson talked about how his Christian faith instructs him not to judge or disrespect others who don’t agree with his beliefs.”

Peterson said A&E “caved” to GLADD and other homosexual-rights groups that “demand tolerance and inclusion” yet are “the most intolerant people around.”

“These groups gave Alec Baldwin a pass for repeatedly using a gay slur, but they have no tolerance for people who express their religious beliefs. This is hypocrisy!”

Paul Rondeau, executive director of American Life League, the oldest Catholic pro-life group in the nation, said A&E “has shown its cowardly bigotry toward Christians.”

“This latest A&E action against Robertson is simply a symptom of a much larger negative attitude the media has toward Christianity, the true meaning of Christmas, and so much more,” he said.

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