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In the latest development in the ongoing culture war surrounding Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson‘s controversial remarks on homosexuality, the pro-Robertson website iStandwithPhil.com was flagged on Twitter, prohibiting users from posting messages containing links to the page. Twitter removed the block late on Dec. 23, and a Twitter spokesperson explained that an outside organization that tracks spam sources had mistakenly flagged the URL as spam.
“We have restored access and apologize for the error,” the spokesperson said.
A&E placed Robertson on an indefinite hiatus from his hit reality show after GQ published its January 2014 profile of the family, in which he named homosexual behavior alongside bestiality as examples of sinful behavior and claimed black people were happy in the “pre-entitlement, pre-welfare” days of the Jim Crow South.
iStandWithPhil.com, run by the organization Faith Driven Consumer, has posted a petition demanding that A&E reinstate Robertson and issue a formal apology to his family and his fans. In four days, the petition has collected more than 195,000 of its goal of 200,000 signatures since it was posted online Friday.
The Christian advocacy group complained Monday that Twitter has blocked users from tweeting about the petition drive. “This marks at least the third major shutdown of a pro-Phil Robertson social media account since the story broke days ago,” said the group in a statement, which did not list other groups it says have also had their tweets blocked by Twitter.
Faith Driven Consumer says it does not know why it is being blocked, as a diagnostic page says the site “has not hosted malicious software over the past 90 days.”
A Twitter spokesperson said the company does not comment on actions relating to a specific account or site.
Twitter generally does not act to block content until receiving a report from another user or group of users. That complaint is then reviewed by Twitter, which decides whether to take action. Normally, the blocked account holder receives an email notifying them of the action being taken.
“We’re called to follow God’s word, and [Phil] just simply recited God’s word,” said Faith Driven Consumer’s Chris Stone. “Anyone who tries to censor that or to exclude that is doing the exact same things that they are claiming is happening to them. It’s censorship. It’s intolerance. It’s discrimination. All we are asking for on behalf of Phil is that he be allowed to freely express his religious views, and those views are not far out on the fringe. They really are in the mainstream of American culture and world culture. This goes back thousands of years.”
A Facebook page called “Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson Is Put Back on Duck Dynasty” has gotten 1.7 million likes, while another called “Boycott A&E and Support Phil Robertson” has almost 15,000 likes. As of Monday, a petition on Change.org, “A&E Network: Bring Phil Robertson back!” has almost 115,000 signers.
A&E released a statement on Wednesday regarding Robertson’s suspension. “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” said the network. “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.”
Robertson, however, will likely appear in season four of the show, which premieres Jan. 15, since production is largely wrapped.
The Robertson family on Thursday released its own statement in response to the controversy.
“We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E’s decision. 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. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible,” reads a statement posted on the family’s Duck Commander website. “Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. 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 that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.”
GLAAD on Wednesday condemned Robertson’s remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication” and later commended A&E for swiftly suspending him.
“By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include Twitter’s response as well as to clarify Robertson’s original comments about homosexuality and bestiality.
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