Here are 3 ‘Duck Dynasty’ free-speech lessons

Friday, December 20, 2013

OK, America: Here’s a quick, basic course in the First Amendment:

  • Lesson #1.”Duck Dynasty”’s Phil Robertson has a First Amendment right to state his views on homosexuality, minorities and pretty much anything else on this unlikely reality-TV star’s mind, whenever he wants.
  • Lesson #2. The A&E television network, which airs “Duck Dynasty,” has a First Amendment right to declare publicly what it stands for, and to suspend Robertson if it doesn’t like how he handled his free speech as outlined in lesson #1.
  • Lesson #3. The First Amendment and free speech are not “endangered species” as the result of the flap, as some say. In fact, it’s a good teaching moment on how free speech – as long as government stays out of the fray – works: Speech in Lesson #1 produces counter-speech in Lesson #2. And as a result (still Lesson #3, by the way) on matters of public interest, we all talk about it a bit more and the country is better off for the discussion.

End of First Amendment class.

Students and fellow citizens, you may now return to your regularly scheduled program (unless it’s been suspended).

Gene Policinski is chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of its First Amendment Center. He can be reached at