Thursday, December 19, 2013

If Ayo Kimathi is in a duck blind, he'd better be a Fish and Wildlife Service employee

Normally, one would not cite Ayo Kimathi and Phil Robertson in the same sentence, since they have very little in common. The only thing that really connects them is that they have expressed views that are opposed by a number of people. Kimathi first gained infamy when people complained that a Department of Homeland Security employee was maintaining a website in his spare time that opposed whites and so-called "Uncle Tom" blacks such as Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Phil Robertson is a network television star who said the following in an interview:

Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine....

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men....Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.

However, in terms of their employement status, there is one very important difference between the two.

Kimathi, until recently, was a government employee. Robertson is not.

This is a very important difference in terms of their employment protections. As I detailed in an August 22 post, there are certain job protections that everyone has, regardless of whether they work for a government agency or a private company. However, as was demonstrated in the case of Michael Italie, a private company CAN fire someone for his or her political views. (Italie, a member of the Socialist Workers Party, was fired by Goodwill.) Kimathi, a government employee, had protections that private employees do not have, which is why it took several months for Kimathi to be separated from his position. And we still don't know if he resigned or was fired, or what the grounds for Kimathi's firing would have been. I've speculated that he could have been fired for lying about the nature of his website, not about the contents of the website itself. And Al Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion.

It took months to fire Kimathi - but A&E suspended Phil Robertson very quickly. Since they are a private company, they can take action regarding someone's political views - although if they were to try to fire Robertson rather than suspend him, Robertson may invoke religious protection.

This is not necessarily a war on culture - A&E would presumably suspend any entertainer who antagonized a portion of their audience. But Eric Teetsel has an interesting perspective:

.@AETV has every right to suspend Phil, because corporations should operate according to their values. Like @HobbyLobbyStore.

Now I'm envisioning what would happen if Edward Snowden were to go on Russian TV and say, "I swear to God, this Sochi discrimination against gay athletes just isn't right. And I want to buy a Pussy Riot album"?

And then, on the following day, Rush Limbaugh were to be interviewed on A&E and say, "I swear to Satan, drug users should not be prosecuted. And I want to buy a Prussian Blue album"?
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