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. sly

    Sounds like the Duck got cooked. Yum yum.

    Haven't tasted good southern cookin' like that since Dale Earhart got roasted.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Joanna

      Yea I agree with A&E ... This idiot is a waste of space ... Glad he is gone, now take the whole show? and how about Honey Boo Boo with them?

      December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Very seriously, no ulterior motive, what's behind the Dale E reference?

      December 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • sly

        ...ah, I'm just being mean, cause I hate racists, especially those on here like Duck who say things like "blacks loved being slaves".

        So, I hit em' where it hurts – haven't seen so many grown men cry in my life as I did when Dale Earnhard, God to the TeaBillies, died.

        Kinda my way of expressing my free speech, and showing some of these folks on here what it feels like to be the victim of the free speech, just as the gays and blacks must feel about Ducks comments.

        December 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Ok, now I understand. Thanks!

          December 19, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  2. smittyjo

    1. Free speech is guaranteed in the 1st Amendment, but it is a protection from GOVERNMENT stopping a person from speaking his mind. An employer has every right to dismiss an employee if his actions reflect poorly on them.
    2. A Church of Christ minister is NEVER called a pastor. In their church, a pastor is an elder. The preacher is a preacher.
    3. Freedom of speech goes both ways. We who hear the dumb things Robertson says are free to comment on them. But he's not being censored, and people like his preacher are free to defend his dumb remarks.
    4. Bigotry wrapped in scripture is still bigotry.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Maddy

      Yes. This.

      December 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Topher

    A&E didn't seem to mind that all the money they were making off this show was mostly from Christians. Why are they suddenly shocked? Though I would argue HOW he stated his opinion wasn't the wisest.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Chipndale

      A&E is packaged together with hundreds of other channels based off of service providers. There is no way to ascertain funding from any direction.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  4. John

    It defeats the purpose of having rights if there can be consequences for exercising them.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Observer


      A&E has the right to suspend any of its "employees" for making the network look so bigoted and ignorant. Same as any company.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • John

        What if he got fired for voting for a conservative Christian Republican who is anti-gay? Would they still have a right to fire him?

        December 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • Dan

          That's why we have a secret ballot, John

          December 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • Observer


          Voting is a legal right and NO ONE knows for sure who anyone actually voted for except the voter themselves.

          December 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • Doris

          I would imagine if he "advertised" his voting preference in a way that didn't conflict with the contract he signed with A&E, then he should be OK. It seems to all boil down to knowing what you're getting into when you are a voice in the entertainment industry.

          December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Dan

      What, you think you live in a world without consequences?

      December 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Madtown

      Rights are not necessarily absolute and without limits, per the Founding Fathers.

      December 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  5. CommonSense

    It's sad that he is being persecuted for his opinion. Yes he's a star, yes he should have been a little sensitive, but I'm tired of tiptoeing around peoples feelings. Deal with it. He just gave his religious view. Now we'll just wait for his apology for making the statement....smh

    December 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Chris

      Martin Bashir was fired from MSNBC last month for saying bad things about Sarah Palin. Alec Baldwin lost his show this month for using an anti-gay slur on the streets of NYC–I'm sure that you were equally outraged for them being fired as well...

      December 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  6. Peter Out

    Who cares if a millionaire is no longer on a television show. A&E can kick him off the show for burping if they want to. It's their network.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • mogran

      By the same token, we don't have to watch that channel, there are lots of others to watch...point made!

      December 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  7. Kay

    It's hate speech when it comes from the right, its freedom of speech when it comes from the left.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • The Taught Police

      Kay, what are commas for? It's not what you wanted to say. There's two "tu" to your "tutu" too.

      December 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Sandbur

    Being persecuted for your faith is different than being persecuted because you are acting like a jerk.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • JJ

      A lot of times they are one in the same.

      December 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  9. Allen

    If you're so confident that Phil should be fired for voicing his Christian views (when he was asked for them, if I'm not mistaken) perhaps you should be fired as well for opening this interview with a religious SLUR against Christians with the term "Bible thumper"? What gives YOU the "right" to say something so offensive to so many people? Oh, wait, would it perhaps be THE FIRST AMENDMENT??? How about applying that Amendment to ALL Americans and quit hiding behind it while trying to sidestep it where everyone ELSE is concerned you hypocrites!!

    December 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Observer


      Please read the First Amendment before pretending you understand it.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • LawDog

        Misunderstanding of the First Amendment aside, the underlying thematic point of that post was dead-on. Why not address that (difficult, because it is a strong point), then the tangential First Amendment point?

        December 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • Observer


          He has the right to his opinion and A&E has the right to not project an image of ignorance and bigotry. Both did.

          December 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  10. Russ

    consider the last two days on the CNN Belief Blog:

    1) "polygamy is great."
    2) "pro-traditional marriage is unforgivable."

    the Emperor has no clothes.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      These aren't the best of times for Christians. Proselytizing is considered rude, as is imposing moral values on others, or even sharing moral values in conversation. Have you considered a non-theistic approach to life, Russ?

      December 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
      • Russ

        @ TTTOO: i have considered it... and find it lacking in all major categories. but i think you'd say the same about theism.

        which leads back to your points: why is proselytizing only rude for theists?
        and wouldn't it be more troubling if no one cared enough to actually say what they were thinking?


        December 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        It is unfortunate. Personally, I enjoy having a good conversation with someone who's intent on saving souls.

        December 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • Russ

          exactly. why talk about fluff when there's something really worthwhile to discuss – *especially* when we disagree on that something worthwhile?

          December 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  11. Recovering Ex-Christian

    Thank God I got away from all you nut jobs!!!

    December 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • JJ


      December 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  12. PhilDaMan

    Phil 2016

    December 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  13. Doc Vestibule

    "I believe in free speech, but there are some things people just shouldn't be allowed to say!"
    Time and again, people revolve around those two magical sentences, pretending to be liberal and open-minded. But they're secretly advocating thought control.
    No, you don't believe in free speech if you say that.
    I'll admit that I do think there are some things people just shouldn't say - they should be smart enough to know better! They shouldn't want to say them. But they should still have the option to say them, if they ultimately decide they want to. And that's the difference between freedom and slavery. Freedom is a world where everybody has the option to be informed. Where everybody is allowed to think for themselves. Ideally, where everybody has the ethics to apply those thoughts to reality.
    In case people don't have the ethics to apply their thoughts to reality, we have laws: we have rules telling you what you can and can't do to affect other people. A hallmark of freedom is the fact that we don't have to act on our thoughts. We have "free will." We choose how to act. In choosing how to act, however, we need information on which to base our decisions; we can't be said to be making an informed choice without information. If we cross the line and begin telling people what information they can access and when, we're not allowing them true free will; we're lying by omission, and we're manipulating them.
    The way to convince people not to do things isn't by banning discussions and depictions of 'bad' things: it's to discuss them and consider the reasons why you shouldn't do said things. The consequences of thought control are – immediately and demonstrably – a lack of information and a lack of choice. That means the right choices, too. Doing the right thing by accident or force isn't moral or ethical – you have to choose to do it, and you have to do it for the right reasons.
    In banning ideas, people tend to confuse action with thought. Actions have effects on others, thoughts can only affect one's self. (Unless one is Darth Vader). Other people's thoughts, when expressed to you, can not affect you – UNLESS YOU LET THEM.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Chris

      So you are ok with what Martin Bashir said on MSNBC the other day about Sarah Palin? That was free speech and he was quoting from a diary written during slavery. I seem to recall outrage by conservatives and liberals. I love the knee jerk – LIBERALS – coming out from wingnuts any time you disagree. Even if another wingnut says it.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
      • Free Nuts


        December 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  14. sisterinChrist

    FYI, the church do not refer to our teachers as 'pastor' they are ministers or evangelists.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Honey Hush

      And we should care, why?

      December 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Russ

      @ sister:
      teacher, pastor, minister & evangelist are all used in the Bible & often interchangeably.
      it's the same in many churches.

      more to the point: why object to something so mundane in the face of such a hot topic?

      December 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  15. lj

    bottom line is its his "personal choice"....not a "Christian choice"
    we have a gay pastor at our church...and there is a TON of Christians who believe gay is ok.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  16. Rodney Drouet

    will someone tell me the differnce between what Phil Robertson says (redneck philosophy) and that of Alquada and
    the Taliband or other middle eastern terror groups without the religous slant.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • omeany

      No difference. Both groups seek to control the masses with restrictive religious beliefs and when that does not work they force their will by means of oppressive laws or in rare cases in the US acts of violence.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • mogran

      A&E is out of line...looks like they want to enforce control of our thoughts...I disagree. Nothing Phil said is untrue, the LGBT community just don't like it so they make a mountain out of a mole hill. Shame on 'em

      December 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • Recovering Ex-Christian

        Walk a mile in my shoes...you would probably say I wear pumps. ..typical uninformed right wing bigots...

        December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • Fred Evil

        " Nothing Phil said is untrue"
        Completely disagree. Your religion may mean a lot to you, but here in the real world, it is out of touch and archaic.
        Cling to it if you will, it only makes you look bad, as the rest of us dwell within reality.

        December 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  17. Observer

    Robertson is free to his opinions and A&E is free to decide if they want people's opinions of them to be supporting ignorant bigots.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  18. steelerguin

    Nothing like the hypocrisy of the left. Phil voices an opinion and he's called a bigot and worse. They are doing the same thing to Phil they are accusing him of and they just don't get it.

    December 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Drivenb4u

      Calling someone out for comments that truly reflect bigotry and prejudice is not hypocrisy. Learn how to make a valid criticism.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
      • steelerguin

        I got it. It's ok to demean Christians, conservatives, caucasians, etc. etc. and that's not bigotry. Bigotry as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is " intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself". Believe me, a lot of people making derogatory statements on this story about Christianity or conservativism are bigots.

        December 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
        • mogran

          Phoney baloney...LGBT community needs to grow up...if they can't stand the heat, get out of the fire!

          December 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • Observer


          It's ignorant bigots that need to grow up and get an education.

          December 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • mogran

          Observer, who's the bigot...careful what you say

          December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
        • Observer


          People who dislike others for the way they were born are generally bigots. Bigotry is a sign of ignorance.

          December 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • James

        "Calling someone out for comments that truly reflect bigotry and prejudice is not hypocrisy. Learn how to make a valid criticism."

        This ONLY works, if you get to decide what bigotry and prejudice is. What you are saying is that ONLY your definition or the definition of people that think like you do matters.

        December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Jackson

      There was a reporter recently who came under fire for making very derogatory remarks about Sarah Palin.

      Did Sarah defend that guy's right to say them, like she is defending this guy?

      But, yeah, go on, blame the hypocrisy of the left. I guess you just prove the old adage "It's OK If You're A Republican".

      December 20, 2013 at 11:27 am |
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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.