‘Duck Dynasty’ Star to Receive Free Speech Award at CPAC

The gay rights CPAC fight is over; long live the “religious liberty” wars.

Reality TV personality Phil Robertson speaks during the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In December 2013, a time when Americans might have otherwise been fighting the War on Christmas, they were gripped by the fate of Phil Robertson. GQ writer Drew Magary had tagged along with Robertson and the other stars of Duck Dynasty, and Robertson had gone on a tear about the sins of homosexuality. "We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists," he said, among other things. One culture war later, Robertson had become a martyr for free speech. He was invited to the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans to address the faithful; he became the first of several conservatives whose reality show dreams crashed against the rocks of political correctness.

And this month, Robertson will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference to accept the joint Citizens United/Breitbart.com "Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award."

"A large part of Andrew Breitbart’s vision was that conservatives would take back modern pop culture, and the Robertson family have become some of the most popular and beloved media personalities today, while keeping God at the center of their family, business and their hit television show," said Citizens United {resident David Bossie in a statement.

"Phil has the guts to do and say what most politicians in Washington won’t," explained Breitbart.com's Stephen K. Bannon.

"When one does not have the freedom to speak out loud and anywhere what one believes, freedom is dead,"  Robertson said.

Past CPACs have been roiled by conflicts between conservative leaders and gay conservative activists. In 2011, the gay Republican group GOProud lost a public argument with some board members of the American Conservative Union; it rebelled by hosting a "Big Gay Party," co-organized by Andrew Breitbart. In 2014, new leaders of GOProud were invited to CPAC on the condition they didn't reserve a booth. "I wouldn't accept a three-fifths invitation to CPAC," snapped former executive director, Jimmy LaSalvia. 

By the end of the year, GOProud was dead. Even as gay rights and gay marriage fad as culturally salient issues for Republican candidates, "religious liberty" and the threats of punishment for Christians thrives. That's why Phil Robertson will be on the same stage as the next Republican nominee for president.

"I think the conservative movement should present itself as a modern movement with solutions for the future, and I don’t think celebrating someone who makes their living glorifying the ignorant backwoods redneck lifestyle is the way to do that," said LaSaliva. "I think that Andrew Breitbart would agree with me. He was smart and forward thinking. He wanted to bring conservative principles to modern culture, not drag it into the past."