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. Tonja

    It's a sinful lifestyle get over it! and you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Read the Bible.

    December 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • igaftr

      Thinking it is a lifestyle shows your ignorance, and your hatred...don't tell me , let me guess...you're one of those "loving" christians right?

      If this is what your bible teaches you, it would be more useful as toilet paper. It certainly would not change what is written on it's pages.

      December 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Maddy

      Chapter and verse where Jesys said anything about gays and their "lifestyles".

      He sure had plenty to say about heteros, though.

      December 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • Maddy


        December 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
      • lee goodwin

        God loves everyone. After all, He created everyone. Gays should not be hated. Phil clearly DOES NOT hate them. He loves them enough to share the Gospel. Someone once shared the Gospel with Phil and told him that being drunk and running a bar doesn't honor God, and now he's doing the same for those who will listen and accept Jesus. Ignore him if you want. Everyone has a choice.

        December 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      o "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

      To wit:

      1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

      “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

      2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

      3. See also the From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
      "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"

      Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

      December 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • middle america man

      Does this duck person ever work on the Sabbath? Isn't the punishment for that death by stoning?

      December 22, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  2. Lana


    December 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Jordon

    As a gay male I do not find what he said in context offensive at all. He was asked a question, not on his tv show but for a magazine article and he gave his honest answer. Tired of GLAAD and other media outlets conservative, liberal, etc for making a big deal out of everything

    December 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Scott

      As a straight conservative Christian male, I certainly respect your level-headedness. Seeing where PR comes from, no one should be surprised at what he said, and even less worried about what impact it has on their lives (none).

      December 22, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  4. Fred

    2% of the US population is gay and they are pushing their "acceptance" agenda on the rest of us. GLAAD, a group that promotes tolerance sure didnt tolerate Phils beliefs here. I hope they leave A&E for a christian channel so you Christ haters wont have to tune in anymore to your so called "offensive" talk. Thank God and thank you Phil and the rest of the Robertsons for putting HOLLYWIERD in its place.

    December 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Maddy

      You are not being forced to accept. You are being prevented from harming. Oh, and many of us backing the gay community are not gay. We're just human.

      December 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
      • charlie in NY

        harm in what way? by telling you what God said? How could that be harmful?

        December 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
        • Maddy

          Please point out where I said anything about God in my post.

          Thank you.

          December 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
        • middle america man

          Odds are, about half of us posting here are divorced. Does anyone preach about that much? Would it be tolerated at all if they did? Just saying, first stone...

          December 22, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  5. andrew

    The guys serves the Lord one minute and serves the devil the next depending.

    December 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • david strahan

      Wow... this all comes down to free speech. I don't agree that someone subject to suspension for what he thinks and says on one side of the coin but encouraged to be outlandish and off center by the network on the other side of the coin! Rappers and fringe musician/artists defile so many of our "core" beliefs and disrespect religion, authority and many other subjects and their success is embraced by the public. In a very broad stroke, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

      December 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • DM

        His free speech hasn't been infringed upon.
        Neither has yours.
        Just because you agree with Phil doesn't mean he didn't violate his contract.
        This isn't a 1st Amendnent issue.
        This is a contractual issue.
        A&E were completely within their rights.

        December 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  6. skiplight

    Phil is now selling wine? This is kinda odd for a self confessed alcoholic with addiction issues in his family. Greed is another one of those pesky sins the Gospels speak about.

    December 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • KATHY Burklund

      I agree, it's all about greed.

      December 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  7. skiplight

    Phil cares so little about money that he has given the name of his company to a wine venture. He does this as an alcoholic and with addiction issues in his family.

    December 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  8. robin

    the bible is very very clear on whats wrong and whats right ..most people dont read it and jesus sead i am here to full-fill the laws of my father..so all sin is sin and may cuse death no matter how large or small..dont get mad at me get mad at yourself for knowing deep in your hart its wrong to do sin as if it were nothing..you know what is right and wrong..your just fooling yourself to belive outher fools.

    December 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • LL

      Not everybody believes in the bible.

      December 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • charlie in NY

        Not everyone will get into the kingdom of heaven.

        December 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
        • igaftr

          not everyone will get into Valhalla either

          December 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Balanced thought

      You have your book, and I have mine...
      I dont mind whichever it is you want to believe. But the same applies to you.
      I wont shove my beliefs on you. And you should not force your book on mw
      That is what freedom is about

      December 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Dave

      The bible also outlaws things like eating shellfish or trimming your beard, how do you feel about those Robin?

      December 21, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  9. Gibbs

    Phil Robertson could care less about money or a TV show or anything material. I am confident in saying he hasn't lost any sleep recently. He may not remember me but I have been to his place a couple of times. Every time I've been around him, the conversation has always centered around our relationship with God. In fact, the last time I spoke with him, he told me that he had built Duck Commander and now it's time for his kids to take the ball and run with it. Phil Robertson told me his focus was on being a servant of God. It's amusing witnessing the media frenzy currently underway. 99-44/100% of the pundits don't have a clue.

    December 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • charlie in NY


      December 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  10. Sabrina Smith

    I must confess that I am tired of the condescension and the name-calling displayed by so many of those who do not accept the Bible as the word of God. It is very disheartening to realize that as a nation we have sunk into the mire so deeply that many do not believe there are any moral imperatives in any respect established by our Creator. If so many of those opposed expect to be treated fairly on the job, in the community, etc., they should be the model of such when someone disagrees with their lifestyle choices. I stand on the Bible which declares that sin exists and we should resist sin. That means I stand with Phil's right to share his faith. Many sources of the media should stop its practices of yellow journalism which have chosen only the parts of the interview which will draw viewers/readers without sharing the full context. Shame on them.

    December 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Max

      I wonder when heterosexuality became a "lifestyle choice"?

      December 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  11. rcatheron

    This whole debacle has gone on far too long. The LGBT community needs to get over it, and so do all the thin-skinned finger-pointers. For heaven's sake, Phil did not go on the offensive and storm the airwaves to attack anyone, he simply stated his own Christian beliefs in response to a question. If every single person took offense to every single statement ever said about them, we'd never get along with anyone. Does anyone remember the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?" Good grief, let it go already.

    December 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  12. mark

    Religion has no place in society. I am sick of reigious bigots using scripture as a basis for hate. I am sick of listening to all this crap. I watched Duck Dynasty all the time...but now if A&E are going to let this piece of garbage back on the show I will not watch. As far as the crap comment "god doesn't want you to be gay" but does he want his churches full of pedophiles, liars and bigots?

    December 21, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Kevin

      Praying for you do. As stated by another earlier....God is dealing with your heart...that's why you have all this pent-up anger. Just listen....he will guide you to truth.

      December 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  13. Rob g

    Typical burnout. I have seen this so often where drugs have being the catalyst for people to become religious fanatics. In life it is important to keep an open mind towards others and to life. Unfortunately most organized religions narrow our thinking.

    December 21, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Ben

      Truth, by nature, is exclusive. If you don't have an anchor in truth, then you don't have a framework to interpret anything in life. You would be adrift in an ocean without a compass or a destination. Many people say science is their compass. Science is wonderful but does have its limits with respect to our reference point in the universe. You say religious people are being narrow minded? Scientists are easily guilty of the same accusation as they also believe they have the "truth" about reality. The only problem with science, as I said, is it has limits of understanding (for example the scientific beliefs of the day allowed for Galileo to be killed for his beliefs which later were found to be true). This is why we need God as our moral compass to lead us to truth. God is truth. Now people distort that truth and hurt others with it, but that doesn't make God any less true. The only way to know anything outside of the limits of science is for something or someone beyond those limits to enter our experience and tell us. This is why Jesus came. To explain our condition and to give us a way out of this world into a new one. Since Jesus made the world and everything in it (and yes, I do believe the world to be as old as science has observed it to be), we can trust him and his words. Either way, everyone on this planet will die and will have to have a conversation with God about why they chose to love him or why they chose not to love him. Those who don't want anything to do with him will get their wish and those who do want to be with him will also get their wish, all because Jesus died for our sins and took our punishment upon him.

      December 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • reaganrepub

        What a bunch of nonsense. Science doesn't believe it has the truth. Science says this is the best and most logical way we can explain things based on what has been observed before, and what can be repeated or mathematically proven. You say this is the truth because we have a 2000 year old book that says it's the truth. As for your comment about Galileo, it was the church that condemned him to death for his scientific observations, not science.

        December 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
      • John Frum

        In the New Testament Gospels Jesus clearly stated that the Jewish laws were to be followed. So how many stonings did you go to this week? Did you forsake to parents and give away your wealth?
        Faith is believing in things with no objective empirical evidence. It also means that you pretend to know things you know nothing about.
        The theistic worldview is an unreasonable and dangerous form of reasoning.

        December 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
        • Dr. Luke

          Please do not pretend that you know what is in the Bible. Jesus never said to follow the Jewish Law. The entire book of Galatians was written to Jewish Christians who were being taught to add parts of the Jewish law to the Gospel of Faith in Christ alone. Paul was condemning the false teachers and teaching the Galatians that it is faith alone that saves. Now, If you want to know what is really in the Bible try Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." or Romans 3:10 "...there is none righteos no not one.." Try the ten commandments. Do you know the purpose of the 10 commandments? Most people think that the 10 commandments are a list of rules that are to be followed to inherit salvation, but they would be wrong. The purpose of the 10 commandments (i.e. "The Law") is to act like a mirror, it merely is there to show us our failures and our need for Christ and salvation. Romans 3:20 "Therefore by the deeds of the LAW no flesh will be justified in HIS sight, for by the LAW is the knowledge of sin." You see, the law is only a tool to show that we can never measure up to God's holy standards. Now take a look at a couple of the 10 commandments. Exodus 20:3 "you shall have no other gods before me." Anything that you value more than God is a little "g" god, money, things, women, etc... are all little "g" gods if you value them more than the one true God. Have you ever valued or placed something in your life in front of God? If so, you are guilty of breaking this commandment. 2. Exodus 20:7 "you shall not take the name of LORD your God in vain" have you ever said God's name for no apparent reason or while cursing? If so, you are guilty of breaking this commandment. 3. Exodus 20:13 " You shall not murder." You might say, well of course I've never murdered anyone. However, Jesus said that if you hate in your heart, then you are guilty of murder. Matthew 5:21-22 21 “You have heard that [a]the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be [b]liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be [c]guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘[d]You good-for-nothing,’ shall be [e]guilty before [f]the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be [g]guilty enough to go into the [h]fiery hell." 4th Exodus 20:14 "you shall not commit adultery" You may not have committed the physical act of adultery, but again like murder, Jesus said that if you lust after another in your heart that you are guilty of adultery. Matthew 5:27-28 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. James 2:10 says, 10 For whoever keeps the whole [a]law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. So God says if you break one law that in His eyes you are guilty of breaking them all. It can not be argued against. The bible is very clear that we are guilty and deserving of an eternal punishment. Its our own choice whether we choose to believe or not. No matter what we choose does not relieve us of our just deserved punishment. There is a way to inherit the Kingdom of God. The gospel, the good news Romans 10:9-10 [a]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [b]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [c]resulting in salvation.

          December 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
        • Productive discourse please

          Dr. Luke

          That is the beautiful thing about Christianity. You can cherry pick the scripture to create a narrative that fits you personal vanities and worldview.

          Congratulations I could not have got a better illustration of selective scripture from God herself.

          December 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  14. SurelyUjest

    The guy is a moron, his pastor is supporting a moron, no big dieal this happens far too often.The question everyone should be asking here is how does a show about ignorant hillbillies get to be popular in the first place? This says way more about societ as a whole more than any of the hoopla created by one dumb guys words could ever say.

    December 21, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • charlie in NY

      Thing is while you think ignorant, you should know Phil founded his own multi million company, holds a masters in education and played first string to Bradshaw. you assume too much when you form opinions on how a person looks. you assume too much when you use one comment to form an opinion of a persons character. frankly you assume to much.

      December 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  15. Gone

    A&E was right. No free speech issue here. Just employee consequences.

    December 21, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  16. PS

    Condemn the man for his actions not for his beliefs.

    December 21, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  17. robertboston12

    God loves all gays....He does not want them to be gay though....he wants them to be straight.....Ask God to help you and he will....He will forgive you of all sins.....if you humbly ask and repent sincerely...Jesus died for your sins, rose from the dead for you....Believe and you will be saved!

    December 21, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • ram

      So if he really wanted everyone to not be gay, why did he make them that way? Did he make mistakes, did he think it was a funny joke to create a bunch of people who would be picked on and denied rights, or what was the thinking on that one?

      December 21, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • Tom Smith

        Sorry, but being Gay is a choice, you are not born that way.

        December 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
        • reaganrepub

          I've know a number of gay people, none have every chosen to be that way. If it's a choice, when did you choose to be straight. Ignorance is a choice (which you've apparently chosen), being gay is not.

          December 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • NotLikely

          So, Tom, how long did you spend thinking about it before you decided to be straight? And it seems that if being gay is a choice, you could change your mind tomorrow? If you do, what kind of man will you go for?

          December 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • ram

      And you do realize that not everyone follows your God or bible, right? That many, many people don't, and that it doesn't necessarily mean your way is the only right one. Live your own life the best you can and follow that judging restriction so everyone can be treated fairly and respectfully.

      December 21, 2013 at 11:40 am |
      • charlie in NY

        Live your life as you wish, you have heard the word and should know the consequences. all will be given trials and tribulation. how you work through them is your choice. Just know eternity is forever.

        December 21, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  18. robertboston12

    The USA has all but fallen from the grace of God. This nation has kicked out all the bibles in schools, values, morals, ethics, and principles, of God the Father. Jesus foretold what the last days would look like...and here we are.

    December 21, 2013 at 10:34 am |
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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.