Concord Christian Academy postpones event with ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson
This undated image released by A&E shows Phil Robertson from the popular series "Duck Dynasty." Robertson was suspended for disparaging comments he made to GQ magazine about gay people but was reinstated by the network on Friday, Dec. 27. In a statement Friday, A&E said it decided to bring Robertson back to the reality series after discussions with the Robertson family and "numerous advocacy groups." (AP Photo/A&E,)
He made his money selling duck-hunting calls.
He made his name on a reality show.
He made a TV network, among others, cringe at his comments about homosexuality and other social issues.
And Phil Robertson of A&E’s Duck Dynasty was supposed to make an appearance in New Hampshire this weekend as a guest of Concord Christian Academy. He was scheduled to speak Saturday at the Capitol Center for the Arts, but the school said his visit has been postponed until September to boost ticket sales for the event.
Robertson, 67, is outspoken about his Christian beliefs on and off his family’s hit show. He leads the family in prayer over their meals. His oldest son, Al, who will also appear in Concord, wrote a daily devotional book. The Robertson patriarch talked about his faith in an interview with reporter Drew Magary for the January issue of GQ magazine.
“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” Robertson told the GQ reporter. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off.”
That message is part of why Headmaster Dean Whiteway booked Robertson for talks at the Capitol Center and the academy, a trip that was originally scheduled for this weekend.
Whiteway, who has been the headmaster at Concord Christian Academy for nearly three years, first watched an episode of Duck Dynasty while on vacation with his family over Christmas. He wanted to continue a series he had started at another school in Pennsylvania, what he called a forum for students to interact with “current Christians.”
Robertson immediately fit the bill, Whiteway said. The Capitol Center for the Arts began selling tickets in mid-February.
“The criteria is that we want to get people who have been successful believers, Christians who have been successful in their area, people who have something wholesome and good to share with the community and our students,” Whiteway said.
But ticket sales halted after about a week. Whiteway would not say how many tickets had been sold, but he said the school realized it couldn’t sell enough tickets in three weeks to pack the house for this event. The Capitol Center seats more than 1,300.
The event, a talk followed by a question-and-answer session with Robertson and his son, has been rescheduled for Sept. 20.
“We changed the date because neither we nor them were satisfied that we had enough lead time to promote it,” Whiteway said. “We want this to be successful. We want to make it well-known.”
In talking about his faith, Robertson has also been vocal about his social views. In the weeks just before Whiteway decided to book him for the event in Concord, that same interview in GQ sparked a firestorm from gay-rights advocates and almost lost the TV star his Duck Dynasty gig.
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” Robertson said in the interview. “Sin becomes fine.”
Prompted by the reporter to elaborate on what he considers sinful, Robertson went on, “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.”
The interview also included Robertson’s comments on African-Americans he worked with in the cotton fields of pre-Civil Rights era Louisiana, who he said he believed were happy with their situation, and more of his spiritual beliefs.
“We never, ever judge someone who’s going to heaven, hell,” Robertson said in the interview. “That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
A&E saw what he was saying, and suspended him indefinitely the day the GQ interview appeared online in December.
The family issued a statement the following day on the website for Duck Commander, their company that sells the duck-hunting call Robertson invented.
“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,” the statement read. “While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible.”
His hiatus only lasted nine days. More than 250,000 viewers signed a petition on IStandWithPhil.com, and before the end of 2013, A&E reinstated Robertson to his family’s show.
‘Give a clear idea’
Whiteway said he was satisfied with the way the Robertson family responded to the scandal, and he decided the TV star’s message of faith was one he wanted the community to experience. The controversy did not prompt him to postpone Robertson’s visit to Concord, he said.
“We want him to give both public and private sessions here, to give a clear idea of what it means to be an evangelical, to be a born-again Christian,” Whiteway said.
Speaking slowly and clearly, the headmaster added his personal views on homosexuality.
“There’s no doubt that God loves gays and lesbians every bit as much as he loves me, and God desires a personal relationship with anyone who seeks him,” Whiteway said. “He will give understanding to people who seek him. He will give understanding as to what the Bible means. . . . I have a sister who is a lesbian, and I love her dearly, and so does God.”
The Robertson family’s booking agency did not respond to requests for comment. Programming Manager Vivian LeWine said the Capitol Center will honor tickets already purchased if those customers want to attend the Sept. 20 event, or will refund those who can’t.
Because Concord Christian is a nonprofit, Nicki Clarke, executive director of the Capitol Center, said the school will rent space for the event at a rate of $999. There will be no additional cost to the school for rescheduling.
“They took a gamble and realized they couldn’t mobilize everybody so quickly. . . . I’m just speculating that a lot of the things were not falling into place to be ready,” Clarke said.
Riley’s Sport Shop, a firearms store in Hooksett, is also a sponsor for the event.
The Robertsons are “very popular personalities,” owner Ralph Demicco said. “Frankly, I like ’em.”
Tickets should be on sale again this week, Whiteway said. They can be purchased at ccanh.com. Both the headmaster and Demicco said they expected the event to attract more attention with a few more months of publicity.
“I think it will happen for September,” Demicco said.
“Probably by September, people won’t even remember it,” Whiteway said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)