Camille Paglia, a social critic and a lesbian activist, is among the many who have blasted the A&E Networks for suspending "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson for sharing his belief that homosexuality is a sin. She called the action "utterly fascist and utterly Stalinist."
"I speak with authority here, because I was openly gay before the 'Stonewall rebellion,' when it cost you something to be so. And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech," Paglia, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, said on Laura Ingraham's radio show this week.
"In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality – as I one hundred percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right of religious freedom there," Paglia said, as transcribed by The Daily Caller.
"To express yourself in a magazine in an interview – this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades," she said. "This is the whole legacy of free speech 1960's that have been lost by my own party."
A&E suspended Robertson indefinitely from its show this week after the conservative Christian shared his view on homosexuality in the January issue of GQ magazine. The A&E's action led to outrage on social media with his Christian fans vowing to boycott the network.
"I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility," Paglia went on to say. "This is not the mark of a true intellectual life."
In a statement, A&E expressed disappointment over Robertson's remarks, saying his beliefs were personal and not a reflection of the network's views. "His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely," read the statement.
S.E. Cupp, co-host of the new "Crossfire" on CNN and who vocally disagrees with Robertson's views on homosexuality, also spoke out against his suspension this week.
"'Duck Dynasty' is a show about a Christian family. They pray at the end of every episode. They go to church, or school as Phil likes to call it. Phil's son Allen is an evangelical pastor. Phil quotes Scripture regularly on the show (and in real life.) They do not hide their Christianity, but rather they celebrate it," Cupp wrote in an article published by CNN.
A&E has the right to its decision, but suspending Robertson for his beliefs, "even if expressed crudely, seems ungracious," said Cupp, the author of Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity. "The Robertsons' Christian values are, in large part, exactly why the show is so popular. Millions of viewers have made it the top reality show of all time because they reject the moral bankruptcy of other reality families. Indeed, the Robertsons' Christianity has been very profitable for A&E."
The reality show has been a huge hit for A&E due to the Robertson family's core Christian fans.
The Robertson family defended its patriarch and Christian faith in an official media statement. "We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word," read the statement. While the family acknowledged that Phil's comments were "unfiltered" and "coarse," it defended them as "grounded in the teachings of the Bible."
The Robertsons also hinted that the future of the show – with a fifth season set to premiere in January 2014 – could be in jeopardy if A&E goes through with its indefinite suspension. "We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what this means for the future of Duck Dynasty," it said.
Harvest Crusades evangelist Pastor Greg Laurie also spoke out against the suspension.
"It seems to me that some people who talk the most about tolerance are the most intolerant toward anyone who dares to disagree with their views," Laurie, pastor at Harvest churches in Southern California's Riverside and Orange counties, stated on his blog. "As Christians, we are not wanting to force our views on anyone. The fact is, we are, as a whole, tolerant of other people's choices, even if we don't agree with them. But what is being asked of us is not tolerance, but acceptance and endorsement of sin. We cannot do that."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptist Convention's Ethic and Religious Liberty Commission, are among those who have expressed outrage over the A&E action.
A Facebook group demanding that A&E reinstate Robertson has become more popular than the A&E's official Facebook page.