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. Blue

    Phil should have kept his mouth shut. Who cares what he thinks?

    December 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Greg

      Lots of people care what the Bible says

      December 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • ghost

      everyone who wants his fellow humans to be able to inherit the kingdom of god, which by your slack jawed comment you won't !

      December 22, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
      • ghostrider

        who cares about century old superst.ition????

        December 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  2. Emmanuel

    Dear Jesus:
    I admit that I am a sinner and need to be saved. I realize that You alone can save me from my sins, I ask right now for Your forgiveness and salvation. I believe that You died for my sins and that You rose from the grave. I am sorry for my sins and ask that You come into my heart and take control of my life. I ask Your Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me so that I may live for You as my Savior and Lord. In Your Name. Amen.,.

    December 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  3. One Big Dummy

    "But Robertson, who looks like a mix between a Vietnam War veteran and Old Testament prophet,"

    Wow, what exactly does a Vietnam War veteran look like, Daniel Burke? What a silly, prejudiced thing to say. Shame on the author!

    December 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

      All I meant to say is that he's the approximate age of a Vietnam War vet (67) but I can see how the description could be misinterpreted so I've removed it.

      December 23, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  4. svann

    The only thing that could cause Mr Robertson's fans to abandon him is if Obama came out in support.

    December 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  5. Misty Murray

    MSN posted a question: Should A&E Have Suspended Phil? At 11:00 pm on 12.19.13, there were 753,866 responses and 84% said NO.

    ABC posted the question and received 11,783 responses and 87% said NO.

    TMZ poll had 82?% saying the suspension was outrageous (128,884 votes)

    BIZ Review had 96% responses that he should not have been suspended. (10,479 votes)

    Hotair.com had 98% responses that he should not have been suspended (11,533 votes)

    A&E might have to eat duck for their Christmas meal.

    December 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Charles Bowen

      Looks like his big mouth and prejudice has finally Cooked his Proverbial Goose ,or was that a Duck... No Dirty Ducking on my watch....They were right to suspend mighty mouth and he should have been fired too boot ! You all have a great Redneck Christmass ya hear.... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

      December 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • Brian Pace

        And using the word redneck is ok? Typical

        December 22, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • DAve

      1.8 Million likes on the facebook site "Boycott A&E until Phil Robertson is restored to the show" Clearly A&E has stepped in a poop pie and better back off before they lose 14 Million viewers.

      December 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  6. CBP

    Whatever this man says or does is not a reason for all of this hype. If his words offend people then those people have a right to stop watching his show and even boycott the sponsors. However, all of the hype only serves to give his words and ideas more press. Can we drop this from the front pages and stop making him a hero for others who would quote or support his views.

    December 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  7. UriNation

    "Scholars and pastors disagree, however, about whether Paul's remarks should apply to modern gay and lesbian relationships." Since when did the writings of the Bible go out of style?

    December 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Puhleeeze

      Since idiots take the Bible and use it to bash people they don't like. Get a f'ckin clue.

      December 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
      • counterww

        Only losers use that language.

        December 22, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • Puhleeeze

          What kind of language?

          December 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
      • Get Real!

        The man is "spot" on with the bible, and if you don't like it hang around long enough Sodom & Gomorrah part 2 is on it's way!!
        Great job Mr. Robertson!!

        December 22, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  8. RNK

    Okay, a redneck / hillbilly gets up and says something stupid, ignorant and hateful.
    Why is anyone surprised?
    A&E hires these people and then is able to sell this nonsense to the public. Who is worse: the hillbilly or the people who watch this junk? A&E just wants a profit and they will serve you whatever garbage returns the biggest bucks for them.
    Most of what is on cable is not worth watching, I cut if off once Naked and Afraid appeared – it was the final blow for me.
    Turn off your television and read a book.

    December 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Fred

      Mighty condescending of you RNK. Why dont you read one of the Robertson families many books? Why is the fact that these people are proud to call themselves rednecks/hillbillies automatically cause you people to look down on them and everyone that agrees with them?

      December 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  9. MikeD

    Stand with God or stand with satan, it is you free will. I choose God!

    December 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • igaftr

      Pascals wager fail. There are an infinite number of other possibilities.
      Just because I do not believe in your god, does not mean I have anything to do with "satan".

      December 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • HM8432

        Keep telling yourself that.

        December 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • igaftr

          Since it is the reality I will, thank you.

          December 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  10. john ruff

    I hope that they realize it for themselves, but any Christian who sides with good 'ol Phil is pretty much going to H*ll for their hatred, bigotry and judgement of their fellow man. Period. So, in their eyes, as a gay man, I guess I'll be seeing them in H*ll too. I'm sure it's more fun down there anyway.

    December 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Rich

      You won't think it's fun "down there", but it will be too late.

      December 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
      • Puhleeeze

        Thanks for your testimony, "good" Christian.

        December 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • hohotai

      Whole lotta Christian love filling these comments.

      December 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Greg

      Phil said he loves everyone, weird way to show his hatred and bigotry.

      December 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  11. Dan6053

    I wonder how many families that watch "Duck Dynasty" have kids who are gay. I wonder how those gay kids that love that show are feeling about themselves right now. I can only imagine how isolated those kids are feeling being told they are going to hell and how worthless they are feeling. Of course, some of those kids will internalize that message and eventually commit suicide. Most gay kids in rural areas already feel isolated, afraid and alone. This man's statements will now be used by the bully kids to beat up, pick on and destroy not only the gay kids but any kids that are perceived to be gay. I grew up in the Baptist church in rural/southeastern Alabama. All I learned from that church was to hate myself, to deny who I was as a gay youth. Don't let them know my secret. Pretend to be straight. I remember praying to Jesus when I was 16 that I would die before the morning came because I did not want to be gay. I loved Jesus as my personal Lord and savior. I didn't understand why me wanting to spend the rest of my life with another guy was such a bad thing. I remember going to see a pastor and he was so hateful to me. He kept asking me what I had done for God to turn me over to such a hideous lifestyle. I remember the lies the church taught me. "Gay relationships don't last more than two years." "Do you want to be the male or the female in the relationship?", "Gay people are child molestors!". "Eventually Daniel, you will start acting like a sissy if you keep hanging around those other gay people." I thank MY GOD that he got me through it and that he got me out of that small minded, backwards town and now I live in this awesome metro area called Atlanta. I have a wonderful partner. If you are a young gay person and are reading this, you are not alone. You can have a wonderful life. Learn to love yourself and be proud of who you are. Hang in there! If I can make it out of rural hell, anyone can!

    December 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • sonny chapman

      Touche` & 10-4.

      December 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  12. TheSadTruth

    Prepare to see the radical right rally around a swamp dwelling hillbilly for no reason other than he shares the same hate they do. Meanwhile, a president who wants the poor to have decent health care is demonized constantly by a party that basically cares nothing for anyone who isn't a millionaire. Pathetic.

    December 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  13. Eshan

    Wow! Since when do these scholars and pastors feel they have the right to change the Bible? They don't! The Bible was given to us by the Lord. This is yet another attack on Christianity. For those of you who don't believe in Christ, stop and consider this when you celebrate Christmas, Easter and other Christian holidays. No one forces anyone to believe but you do need to stop the double-standard. Christians have a right to our beliefs and NO ONE has the right to change the Bible.

    December 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Knowledgeable

      Eshan – Which version of the bible are you referring to? – Greek, Latin, Hebrew, English – Catholic or Protestant, Spanish etc. Your version is not the same as mine- So you MUST automatically be right because you say so

      December 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • KCHMP

      And remember when you sit by your Christmas tree and light a yule log or give your kids an Easter basket with a chocolate bunny or chick or hiding eggs, that you are actually playing around with pagan symbols and pagan holidays that were turned into Christian holidays.

      December 22, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  14. BillyM

    Religion, the root cause of all evil. God may have created man, but religion is a creation of man.

    December 22, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  15. Bubba Rydel

    Finally, a preacher, a Man of God, with the guts to speak up for what he believes. Where are the rest of the Preachers, Priests and Deacons? Cowards. Are you ashamed of Jesus Christ?

    December 22, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  16. BILL

    As a gay American I support his free speech. We are all equal under the law, which is why gay marriage to taking hold. If you're a conservative Christian don't come to my wedding and I won't come to yours. But at the end of the day we're all equal. And why is it these right-wingers completely ignore EVERYTHING Jesus said about divorce (while he said nothing about being gay)? Carry on!

    December 22, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Dano99

      He said in the interview "He has not seen any mistreatment of blacks, with his own eyes." I also live in the South and have never seen, with my own eyes, (and not talking about on TV) the KKK, lynchings, crosses burning or blacks being mistreated. If I did, I would be there to defend them. Also, although Louisiana is part of the South, it also has its own history as a former French colony. The French were much more tolerant of minorities and the Natives. Whereas the Spanish and English tormented the Natives, the French embraced them. That embodies what New Orleans is about which is why it's a city with predominantly black demographics. Alabama and Mississippi... different stories there.

      December 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  17. Enough

    It's not so much that he is a bigot against the gay community, it's also that he is so stupid to believe that blacks were happy before the civil rights movement. Keep in mind, blacks were hung by the KKK, had crosses burning on their lawns and churches burnt down, entire families killed. Yes, they were singing in the fields, but it was church songs and that's how the blues came about.
    He is just plain stupid!

    December 22, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  18. Josh

    Of course pastors will agree with him. Put it in perspective: Replace "Gay" with any other discriminator and you realize the problem: "I think people who have skin darker than mine are all sinners. And they should go to hell." Or let's go closer to the Church: "I think women are all sinners and will all go to hell." Kind of makes you think twice before subscribing to a "religion" doesn't it? No wonder young people have woken up and are moving away from religion in droves. They realized their parents were trying to brainwash them and they got out. Good!!! A couple more generations and religion will be abolished.

    December 22, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • reality check

      Perhaps if one replaces the word "gay" with rapist, murderer, child abuser you would be upset as well. Absolute right and wrong simply do no exist in your world. What is considered wrong simply is a generational thing and can be made right by changing views of the people.

      Religions will not be replaced by what you advocate is secularism. Secularism is weak in comparison to religion and religion will always conquer secularism. Europe is a good example of this. Europe largely left Christianity for secularism and those Christians that have remained are generally weak Christians. The weak Europeans are now in the process of being slowly removed by Islam. Call Islam what you want but the people are generally committed to it. Many are willing to die for it. In less than 100 years, most of Europe will be dominated by Islam due to their higher birth rates and immigration. The weak in Europe (marginal Christians and secularists) will be replaced by the strong (religion in this case Islam)

      Same will happen in America. The fastest growing group in America are Hispanics. Are they a horde of secularists? No they are not. As "white" America perhaps goes more secularist, they will be swept off by the Hispanics that the strong (religion-in this case Christianity mostly Catholic)

      History repeats itself and sorry to tell you secularism historically is weak. If you are not willing to die for your secularism as the man with religion is willing to die for his religion, you lose.

      December 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Syd

        Perhaps you can tell me exactly who gays are harming, as rapists, murderers , and child molesters are wont to do.

        Ridiculous equation. Says a lot of where your mindset is at. You forgot to throw is bestiality, like Phil did.

        December 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  19. Anubis

    "He's very calm, and very confident that if he serves the Lord, God will take care of everything."

    If he truly believes the Lord will take care of it, it's unnecessary for him to impart his beliefs on GQ readers.

    December 22, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • 2NoWay

      He was asked a question. He gave his response. You don't like his response. You get bent out of shape (just saying). So, now, we must all say only those things that you agree with. Nobody wants to hear the truth anymore. They just want to continue living in their selected sins.
      Well the good news is that God loves you too, and it is not too late to turn away from your sinful acts/deeds/etc. At a minimum, don't hate the messenger of truth.

      December 22, 2013 at 10:52 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        A loving god would not allow hell to exist and utilize it for his own purposes when he claims that he wants everyone to "love their enemies." Disgusting creep.

        December 22, 2013 at 11:17 am |
        • Jonathan

          Hell was created for Lucifer and his followers. The devil seeks, kills, and destroys. Goodness comes from The Lord, evilness comes from the devil. The world is so corrupted thinking gay is not a sin. we are suppose to love the human being, who chooses to be gay. But, as Christians we are to hate the sin they are commuting. Phil was correct in his interview. As Christians you are suppose to pray for the gays and lesbians to inherit the kingdom of GOD. the devil created the evil thought of being gay. God never created anyone to be against his goodness. Anyone who sins against The Lord will enter hell for eternity.

          December 22, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
        • midwest rail

          " we are suppose to love the human being, who chooses to be gay."
          False. No one chooses to be gay. Try again.

          December 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • Syd

          When did you "choose" to be straight, Jonathan?


          December 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • BeBoppin

        The "truth" according to Phil maybe but not to many others. But even though I disagree with him, who cares? I still think Duck Dynasty is one of the more entertaining reality TV shows. Maybe A&E just couldn't handle too much reality.

        December 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
  20. Anubis

    "He's very calm, and very confident that if he serves the Lord, God will take care of everything."

    If he truly believes the Lord will take care of it, it's unnecessary for him to impart his personal beliefs on GQ readers.

    December 22, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • charlie in NY

      you totally miss the direction God has given us? we are to teach and love. To be silent is to disobey God. If what you hear causes you discomfort, you need to reconcile it within yourself.

      December 22, 2013 at 11:08 am |
      • igaftr

        Waht are you talking about. Nogomain does not require that from us at all.

        December 22, 2013 at 2:01 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.