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December 19th, 2013
01:49 PM ET

CNN Exclusive: Family pastor defends 'Duck Dynasty' star

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - While controversy swirled around Phil Robertson Wednesday evening, the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch was at his longtime church, praying for a young woman who suffers from cancer, the TV star's pastor told CNN in an exclusive interview.

"Phil led us in prayer," said Mike Kellett, senior pastor of White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, Louisiana. "There were greater things on our minds than the firestorm of controversy about this article."

Asked how Robertson is taking the fierce criticism of his remarks on homosexuality, Kellett said, "He's very calm, and very confident that if he serves the Lord, God will take care of everything."

Robertson, 67, was suspended by the A&E network on Wednesday after the publication of comments in GQ magazine. Citing the Bible, the outspoken Christian called homosexuality sinful and compared it to bestiality and drunkenness.

Robertson's remarks were a rough paraphrase of the New Testament, in which Paul catalogs a list of vices, including, in many Bible translations, homosexuality. Scholars and pastors disagree, however, about whether Paul's remarks should apply to modern gay and lesbian relationships.

Gay rights groups were outraged, calling Robertson's remarks "homophobic" and "hateful." A&E said it was "disappointed" by the comments, "which are based on his own beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty.' "

But Robertson, who looks a bit like an Old Testament prophet,  says conservative Christian beliefs and values have permeated every corner of his life ever he gave up his self-described heathen lifestyle as a honky-tonk operator in the 1970s.

"I myself am a product of the '60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom Savior," Robertson said in a statement on Thursday. "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together."

‘Duck Dynasty’ reactions debate: Free speech or bigotry?

Robertson is an elder at White's Ferry Road Church of Christ, a nondenominational church that gathers around 1,200 worshippers on Sunday mornings. That means he offers spiritual counsel, helps teach the faith, hosts Bible studies and offers charity to the poor, Kellett said.

"He has literally helped bring hundreds of people to the Lord," the pastor added.

Robertson's son, Alan, co-pastored White Ferry with Kellet for eight years before joining the cast of "Duck Dynasty."

The show, which A&E says drew nearly 12 million viewers to the premiere of its fourth season in August, is enormously popular among conservative Christians, many of whom defended Robertson on social media Thursday. A online petition called "I Stand With Phil," garnered nearly 10,000 signatures by midday.

Opinion: ‘Duck Dynasty’ suspension doesn’t violate First Amendment

As Robertson's fame has grown, so has the size of his pulpit. He has preached at megachurch Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California. Publishers peddle "The Duck Commander Devotional" and churches clamor for guest appearances by the Robertson family.

“We’re kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century," Alan Robertson has said. "It’s how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts."

Kellett said his church backs Robertson, whose family is nearly royalty in West Monroe, a city of 13,000 in northern Louisiana. "We support the Robertson family, and strongly believe in our Bibles and in Jesus Christ as lord."

The pastor said he agrees with Phil Robertson's comments about homosexuality and is concerned about his critics' treatment of Christianity.

"I think it's unfortunate that when you quote the Bible people get upset about one particular sin that always seems to get a lot of attention," Kellett said. "But sometimes the Bible is going to rub folks the wrong way."

Palin and Jindal weigh in

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Celebrity • Christianity • Culture wars • Discrimination • evangelicals • Faith & Health • Gay marriage • Gay rights • gender issues

soundoff (2,092 Responses)
  1. robertboston12

    John 16:33
    King James Version (KJV)
    33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

    December 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  2. Ralph

    I can't believe after all these years, people haven't out grown up and stopped using god as an excuse for the dumb things they say. They twist and distort what the bible says, They hand pick certain parts of the bible thinking their living the life of god. Mr. Phil is someone who fits the bill for picking and choosing. Living the life of god my Butt. People like this are the most hypocritical people on the planet

    December 21, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Saraswati

      Most humans will develop an ethical system to support whatever ideas are easy for them and promote their own interests. My favorite is Falun Gong whose primary text discourages most charity since people deserve what they get.

      December 21, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  3. Peg

    "duck dynasty" patriarch's expressed belief is a great example of why some have totally written. Off organized religion in general and Christianity specifically. You KNOW your moral compass is dysfunctional when the likes of dimwit Sarah Palin rushes to your defense.

    December 21, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  4. Balanced thought

    Have you ever noticed that all religions look to the sky?
    Based on evidence and artifacts, there is strong evidence to support aliens visited this planet ( look at cave drawings, artwork, pyramids on all continents including countries like chna and anerica)' astronaght interviews and more
    The immaculate conception is really an alien abduction. Man kind is actually the result of genic engineering
    The tales of religion are actually tales of alien visitations
    Your god is an alien

    December 21, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  5. Noel

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lUMzIKCPFtM

    December 21, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Why Evolution is True and Why Many People Still Don't Believe It

      Happy New Year also.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW9G2YVtBYc

      December 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  6. cosmotwo

    Just the beginning of persecution of Christians and their beliefs.

    December 21, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • John Long

      that is the truth

      December 21, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Damocles

      Look, you can have whatever opinion you want to have, just don't expect everyone to have that same opinion, or keep quiet if they think you are wrong. It is not persecution to have a differing thought.

      December 21, 2013 at 8:21 am |
      • John Long

        yes but it is ok to be gay and tell it to the four corners of the earth and demand everyone to be happy and agree with you. but dare you be not gay and say one word about not being and oh lord you are a raceist bigot for shame you said you were not gay.

        December 21, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • NSL

      Your statement is nonsense. To start, it is the Duck Man who is on the attack against everyone who doesn't hold to HIS Christian beliefs. No one is attacking or persecuting Christians in anyway. He has the right to say what he said, however, to finish, whether you agree with his point of view or are outraged by it, he has a contract with A&E, and if his "speech" violates that contract, A&E can fire him and cancel the show, should they so decide.

      December 21, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Saraswati

      This man presumably signed a contract with a morals clause that forbade disparagement of groups of people. Entertainers have signed such contracts for over a hundred years. Such contract allow you to, for instance, fire a kids show host you find is also doing propaganda for NAMBLA or promoting genocide or racial segregation. If you think you shouldn't be able to restrict such activities you should write to your representative about putting in a law to abolish morals clauses...but be sure you understand the implications.

      December 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Balanced thought

      / the Christians have been persecuting gays for hundreds of years.. and to a much more extreme sense . how does it feel to be treated the same way?

      December 21, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • PS

        Not sure persecution is an accurate word.. I am more spiritual than religious. To my knowledge this man has not been hostile or treated anyone in an ill manner. I do however feel if you were a duck, you would have a legitimate gripe.
        I am not sure Balanced thought is an accurate name for you either, Biased thought is probably more appropriate in your response but I do believe you are more capable of a balanced thought. Could it be that my opinion (for what it is worth) is more balanced and less condemning? You condemned me from an innocent post.

        December 21, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • Balanced thought

          The comment was in response to the statement that christians were feeling persecututed. Now lets see, so far the only actions on christians is to call them out on hypocracy, hatred, and to cut their access of public speach If this is christians being persecuted, why isnt it persecution by christians when they are calling gays by derogatory terms, sensoring gays from tv programs as was common prior to the 1990s, public protests like the westborough church and NOM, excluding gay families from equal tax treatment via narriage, furing them due to whom they are and violence etc. ?
          If Christians are saying they are being persecuted, what would you call all these christian actiins against gays ?

          December 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
        • PS

          Is hatred accurate? sure there are extremist in every group. I don't believe saying being gay is a sin qualifies at hatred. No one is capable of living without sin. Most Christian will find the love for the person even though they don't agree with their sins. If you told me this man used his celebrity influence and went around preaching hatred for the gay population, I would be on board with you but that is not what I heard. He stated his belief, just as you have stated yours. Until his Actions are contrary to the other principles that Christians and most other religions hold dear such as love thy neighbor neighbor, I feel this is much to do about nothing.

          Look at it this way, every time he goes to mass/service the entire church is full of sinners. As I said before I am not real religious but I am not aware of any hierarchy of sin. I am sure if I posted this public someone would find one or two different ones. A sin is a sin. So in a Christians eyes and his ( I assume) everyone is equal.

          It is not the god or the religion, it is the imperfect humans that create that problems. I know he is imperfect, I just not convinced he is a problem.

          December 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  7. John Long

    Good for you Phil you spoke what you feel is right. why is it that if you are gay it is just fine to get on tv and go on and on about it and the world has to say yea gay is the way and life is good? But someone that is not gay and does not believe but puts no one down well by gosh he is a hater and we must do away with the people that are not gay. You know if you have the right to sleep with your kind then i have the right to disagree with it so get over yourself and stop trying to force your life down my throat no pun intended.

    December 21, 2013 at 6:21 am |
    • Saraswati

      "puts no one down"?!?!?!?

      Holy cr@p you folks will believe anything to defend your own biases. Did you even read what he said? you think the following doesn't put anyoneone down:

      "They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil."

      Really?

      December 21, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  8. sandvichmancer

    Church leaders aren't businessmen (or at least they shouldn't be).
    Businesses aren't people, and thus cannot have opinions or political affiliations.

    But everything needs a label, and as soon as people have one they want to group everything into "same as me" and "the reason for all bad things ever" categories.

    December 21, 2013 at 5:36 am |
  9. Usaman

    A&Ewhat are you thinking??? Have a show about a southern red neck (not a bad thing... Kinda like red neck ideas and values), the show becomes wildly popular and profitable, then assonine bureaucrats in your organization are stupid enough to give into a minority opinion to try a screw up your cas cow.... How can you fault ag red neck for thinking and feeling like a red neck.... Stop trying to change him or let someone else have the show and we can watch it on their channel....

    December 21, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  10. ThomasE

    The issue isn't about the first amendment because it has no bearing on the government censorship of free speech. The issue is about a man giving his personal religious opinion on sin as interpreted from the bible and his employer whom for whatever reason disagreed with those views and terminated his employment.

    His comments about african americans were his views in which he worked along side african americans and in no way represents the feelings of african americans as a whole.

    I see no infringement on his 1st amendment right. I ony see hypocrisy in which a certain view point is being singled out for criticism by another group who in turn assumes their criticism is the correct one.

    December 21, 2013 at 12:12 am |
  11. Mary

    The most important commandment given by Jesus was to love one another as you love yourself. When people make hateful remarks like the ones made by Robertson and his followers, proves these Pharisees are not real Christians. They are just phonies that use Jesus" name to spread their hate without being condemned. The haters hide behind Jesus to spew their venom.

    December 21, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Jim

      Being loving does not mean that you should agree 100% with someone else's actions at all times. If you had a friend addicted to drugs would you be a good friend if you never told them they were wrong and had a problem? Love is not just agreeing 100% no matter what and never pushing back on what other people do. If you want to use Jesus as the example, he condemned the actions of the Apostles and the Pharisees when they were wrong. He called people on their mistakes and called them to make changes. That is what love is.

      December 21, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  12. Sad

    It's so sad to read all of these hateful comments back and forth between everyone discussing this controversy. Whether your Christian or atheist, republican or democrat, what is the excuse for all of this cruelty towards each other? Perhaps Phil's comments were offensive and he should be more careful of the words that leave his mouth since he is on such a public platform, but this is one man, a tv entertainer's opinion. This should not be such a spark to cause hateful interaction between people with differing opinions. It is what it is, how does attacking one another help?

    December 20, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Ted

      I actually don't find a lot of hate in many of the posts. Sure, a lot of people are tired of hearing the same old same old nonsense from religious folk, but maybe instead of the ad hominems yourself, you should take a more critical look at what is being said. There are some pretty sound criticisms of Christianity being put forward here. Take heed!

      December 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • Robert Constant

      Undoubtedly a white , straight person does not respond to prejudicial remarks aimed at Blacks or Gays the same way the targeted people do. It is easy for an "impartial observer" to take the high ground and speak with lofty disdain about people not being nice to each other. It is different when you or people you love are the victims of prejudicial hate given the cover of religion.
      As to this pastor, his antecedents in the Ante Bellum South used the Bible to justify slavery. He probably still does.

      December 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  13. Jeff S

    What about his remarks about how happy black people were before they got civil rights?

    December 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Petra

      That has been glossed over.

      December 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
      • Saraswati

        I think the comment was a bit harder for people to really grasp and for many it was so off the wall they don't even understand what he was trying to say. People will go for the easy target. Next time he may word things differently...with someone like this he will no doubt present all sorts of variants of these statements.

        December 20, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.