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Column: Stars love freedom of speech if they can charge

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Well how about that? Come August we’ll be treated to a visit by “Duck Dynasty’s” favorite uncle, Si Robertson (plus a couple of in-laws.)

Well, yee-hah Buddha, as someone once said. That’s gotta be the biggest thing to hit Columbus since Cummins Engine Plant 1 got flooded in ’08.

The Robertsons are famous for their devout religious faith. Also for being able to make money hand over fist. In their case, the two seem to go together.

I don’t know how much we’re paying Si and his in-laws to grace our fair city for an evening. But I did a quick Web search on “Robertsons speaking fees.” The Celebrity Speakers Bureau had Uncle Si listed under “Actors, Faith & Religion” and “Reality TV Stars.” And let us say, if that site is to be believed, members of that family pull down for an evening more than I can make in six months. And I speak every week.

In-law Korie Robertson only draws down about half as much money as Si. Well, what do you want? She can’t even grow a beard. Still pretty good cash, though.

Ah, yes, what’s not to love about “faith and religion” when it pays that kind of money? St. Peter, St. Paul or Jesus himself was happy if someone just fed them and put them up for the night.

But, let’s talk about freedom of speech. A while back, clan patriarch Phil Robertson made some injudicious remarks about gay folks. He got roundly criticized for it. Pundits all over the place complained that we liberals were taking away poor Phil’s “freedom of speech.”

It was quite an uproar. That’s the way the news-and-entertainment business works in the good old U.S. of A. these days. By the time the argument was over, I suspect everyone involved made a lot of money on the deal. Except, maybe, the gay folks.

I have no idea what Phil Robertson gets for an evening’s preaching — er — speaking. I checked several booking sites. Apparently, if you have to ask, you can’t afford him.

I guess that’s why we’re getting Si. A town our size can’t afford Phil. I gather, to book him, we’d have to be at least the size of Bloomington.

All that money, paid to listen for a couple hours to a guy who has no “freedom of speech?”

I wish someone would take away my “freedom of speech” that way. I could buy a new car and everything. Bright red. I’d buy a bright red car, with a big motor up front, if they’d just take away my “freedom of speech” the way we did patriarch Phil’s.

I even tried being controversial, by the way, just like the Robertsons. Except I spoke out in support of gay folks. I got a couple of nasty letters in the mail, but that was about it.

I barely even got a pay raise this year. I must be doing something really wrong.

But you know what? Every time I hear somebody complain that they’re getting their “freedom of speech” taken away by liberals, the next thing you know, they walk off with a ton of money on the speaking circuit, just the way the Robertsons do.

I don’t begrudge them. I feel rich just preaching every weekend to the cool folks in my church.

But that “freedom of speech” thing? It must not mean what some folks think it means.

The Rev. Dennis McCarty is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Columbus. His opinions are his own, and members of his church may or may not agree with them. He can be reached by email at

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