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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. Bill Graham

    Because of things like this, I renounce Christianity.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:01 am |
  2. joefish

    Something just dawned on me in the ten commandments are they ranked 1-10, 1 being the worse 10 not to bad or are they equally bad in the eyes of One's God.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Funny. That's the method I employ when eating skittles.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:48 am |
  3. Rogue351

    Praying for a woman that has cancer. If he really cared he would crack open his check book and pay for her treatments. Isn't that what religion teaches ? Help those in need ? Or is the only reason he prays is to help himself ? Most religious people fear going to hell. That is why the attend church, pray, etc. It is not for those in need it is to save their own soul. A truly selfless act would be to help those that he disagrees with their life style. Therefor not judging, hating or discriminating against but doing an act of kindness for those he disagrees with. Not letting his opinion get in the way of doing the right thing.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  4. HotAirAce

    Apparently there is at least one video of this azzhole preaching and saying even worse things.

    I wonder how long it will be before he learns which of his family members are gay.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  5. adibese

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

    So this is a good thing? I'd say it's very destructive.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  6. Rogue351

    This is nothing we have not heard before. The religious right meets rich hill billies. Belief or bigotry, when either discriminate against a certain group of people it makes no difference it is still discrimination, hate and intolerance. The network was correct in their actions. There is no difference if he had said something against other groups that have been discriminated against in the past. An example is the Jewish faith. Had he said something against them would people be acting different. Yes they would have. This man does have the right to say what he believes, that is fact. However, the network also has the right to not put up with it. As with so many thing in the USA money is King and in this instance the network has the money.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      You are 100% correct that the network was fully within their rights to fire him; however, it was a stupid move. They knew his views and they cash in on that redneck aura to the tune of millions. They're capitalizing on the redneck icon. It's part of the fvcking deal, morons.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:24 am |
  7. john adams

    My neighbor works for FedEx and hates his job but it is a job. He would not under the guise of freedom of speech tell his boss that FedEx is the pits but UPS rocks. Freedom of speech would not guarantee his job. Robertson has the right of free speech but that right does not guarantee him a job or a tv show. The government has not infringed on or violated his freedom of speech. He works for a private company and as he can say what he pleases the company can act accordingly.

    December 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Quit being reasonable John.

      December 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I can't quite grasp why more people aren't of that view, john. It's disconcerting.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:06 am |
  8. sandvichmancer

    I wish my church would get angry if I got fired for running at the mouth and losing the company customers. But wait, I'm not from a Confederate state. Guess I actually have to make common sense decisions and not blame the gub'ment and people who are loyal to the government for my own manufactured problems.

    December 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Austin

      like arming the Taliban? and nukes? and bin laden?

      December 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  9. SciGuy

    Amusing and annoying that cnn can have an article on h0m0$exuality, but you don't dare spell the word out or your comment vanishes. Hypocrites.

    December 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  10. PerceivedReality

    Jesus is Lord!

    Phil Robertson has more fans than there are atheists in America!

    Atheists are fools.

    December 19, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Excellent self-description for your screen name.

      December 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • sinnomo'

      I'm with You and hey that is a wise screen name.

      December 19, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  11. lol??

    Once the socies find a Cause they are hooked.

    December 19, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • ClevelandJeff

      Your angst at your futility amuses me.

      December 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
      • G to the T

        Certainly a one trick pony to say the least...

        December 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  12. bostontola

    Reality vs truth. Many fiction stories can reveal profound truths, the stories are still not real.

    December 19, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  13. La Verdad

    "Men who abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their lust for one another, men with men commiting indecent acts and receiving in their persons the due penalty of their error." Romans 1:27

    December 19, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, let's base 21st Century USA social norms on the musings of a Greco-Roman religious nutjob writing in 50 CE.

      December 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
      • La Verdad

        Colin, last I checked the truth is always the truth and doesn't change. Does truth change with the times?

        December 19, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
        • Observer

          "La Verdad",

          Speaking of truth: Romans (12:20) also says “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”

          Do you believe and practice EVERYTHING that Romans says or just HYPOCRITICALLY pick-and-choose?

          December 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Observer

      "La Verdad",

      Romans (12:20) also says “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”

      Do you believe and practice EVERYTHING that Romans says or just HYPOCRITICALLY pick-and-choose?

      December 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
      • lol??

        You jumped from enemy to enemies. Feed an entire bath house?? Sounds like a mob and they'll win anyway.

        Therefore if thine enemy hunger................

        December 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
        • Cliche

          Your continued bastardization of Scripture is telling.

          December 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Ted

      "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that"

      Albus Dumbledore
      Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

      December 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  14. Colin

    I wonder if the harm religion has done to women and $exual minorities throughout time is worse than all of the $exually transmitted diseases humans have ever suffered with throughout history.

    On the one hand, you have AIDS, VD, syphilis, etc. On the other hand, you have all the young Hindu and Muslim girls forced into marriages they do not want – often to older men, all the fundamentalist Mormons in polygamous relationships, all the young gay men in all three monotheist religions, all the young gay women in all three monotheist religions, the little females babies who have their c.litorises clipped off, the women accused of adultery, the Catholic women who stay in abusive or loveless marriages due to social stigma and/or prohibitions on divorce, all the unwanted pregnancies due to prohibitions on contraceptives, all the unwanted births due to prohibitions on abortion, all the gay adults who cannot marry or[once] were thrown out of the military.

    It would be hard to decide; but what is very telling is that it IS hard to decide what is worse, religion or all of the $exual diseases in the World.

    December 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  15. bostontola

    Good intentions do not absolve one of abuse. When a parent withholds medical attention for a sick child in favor of prayer and the child dies it is still a crime. When a parent teaches their children that a minority group is bad because the bible says so, it is still bigotry.

    December 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  16. Elliott Carlin

    A couple of observations: Why do we Christians care about a silly TV show. Entertainment is culture's playground–we should expect no different treatment. And on another note, whenever gays are involved, you can bet there is drama. Why are the males effeminate and the females more masculine? Nature upside down.

    December 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • ClevelandJeff

      Sure thing, Elliot.
      Stereotype much?

      December 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Observer

      Elliott Carlin

      "Why are the males effeminate and the females more masculine?"

      Why do you care?

      December 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • JJ

      Why are all your priests either gay or pedophiles?

      December 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
      • ClevelandJeff

        Why are you brain damaged? Again, fool, stereotype much?

        December 19, 2013 at 9:51 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.