Folks in Louisiana town stand by Duck Dynasty clan

The Associated Press
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“Faith. Family. Ducks.” It’s the unofficial motto for the family featured in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty and that homespun philosophy permeates nearly everything in this small north Louisiana town.

It’s perhaps most on display at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.

The family — including patriarch Phil Robertson, who ignited a controversy last week when he told a magazine reporter that gays are sinners and African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws — were in a front pew this past Sunday. And standing by beliefs they say are deeply rooted in their reading of the Bible.

The rest of the flock, decked out in Duck Dynasty hats and bandannas, stood by the family and the sentiments Phil Robertson expressed.

Alan, Robertson’s eldest son, helped deliver a Christmas-themed sermon. He started off by referring to last week’s controversy.

“Hope your week went well,” he dead-panned. “Ours was kinda’ slow.”

He was referring, of course, to Phil’s forced hiatus: TV network A&E suspended Phil last week after remarks about blacks and gays caused a public uproar.

But the controversy barely resonated above the choir at White’s Ferry Road Church, where some people wore T-shirts that said “I support Phil Robertson.” Son Willie — the CEO of the multimillion dollar Duck Commander duck call and decoy enterprise that inspired reality show producers to give the family a show — put on camouflage wader overalls and baptized three people, including one man with cancer.

“Who’s going to be the lord of your life?” he asked, before dipping the man back into the baptismal pool at the front of the church.

To the people of West Monroe, this is the Robertson family: honest, family-focused and filled with the love of God and Jesus. It’s the family that brought the spotlight to West Monroe, population 13,000, and in doing so put in sharp relief the cultural, political and religious differences that define — and often divide — America.

Folks here don’t care that Phil Robertson told a GQ reporter that gays are sinners who are going to hell. Or that as a youth he picked cotton with African-Americans and never saw “the mistreatment of any black person. Not once.”

They do care that A&E suspended Phil. The move, they say, was unfair and an affront to viewers, to the Robertsons and to Christians everywhere.

“The program and his comments take a snapshot and it doesn’t represent the totality of what the guy is all about,” said Richard Laban, the owner of Redneck Roots, a downtown West Monroe store that sells some ’Duck Dynasty’ T-shirts and souvenirs.

“A&E reacted entirely too quickly,” added Laban. “They really treated Phil as if he was a terrorist.”

With its lakes and rolling hills and pine forests, West Monroe in northern Louisiana is Duck Country USA, a place where Robertson and his four sons built an empire on duck call devices and decoys before becoming wildly popular TV stars.

Politicians have taken a stand on the controversy — Sarah Palin posted a picture on her Facebook page of her with the reality show clan with the message, “Free Speech is an endangered species.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also lamented the suspension.

Even State Rep. Marcus Hunter — a Democrat and black man who represents West Monroe — issued a statement saying that “the faith and family structure exhibited by the Robertsons on the hit A&E show is part of the allure which makes it so special.”

Hunter did say he would like to “enlighten” Robertson about the “challenges and triumphs of black people during and after Jim Crow.”

To be sure, not everyone here agrees with the Robertsons.

John Denison, a former Monroe TV personality who is gay and the head of Forum for Equality, a group that advocates for the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, said he’s appalled by Robertson’s remarks.

“I want Phil Robertson and the world to know that what he said hurt me and many people here in our state,” said Denison, who wrote an open letter to Robertson, asking him to dinner to discuss “not what separates us but what brings us together.”

Denison said Robertson’s beliefs do not resonate with everyone in Louisiana.

“I’m a Christian,” said Denison. “No one wants to talk about my Christ, they only want to talk about their brand.”

But like many people across America who enjoy the show, Robertson’s fans here in West Monroe see something genuine about the reality TV family and believe he speaks his brand of the truth. Even though it’s a program about a group of wealthy business owners who hunt and fish, people say it accurately reflects life here, as well as its Christian and American foundations.

When outsiders in New York or Hollywood make fun of the show — or worse, criticize Robertson for his beliefs — it’s like part of the country is criticizing the essence of West Monroe.

To the people here, it’s just proof that a segment of America doesn’t understand the rural, conservative, Christian part of this country.

Organizations: Ferry Road Church, Duck Country USA

Geographic location: West Monroe, Louisiana, Northern Louisiana America New York Hollywood

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Recent comments

  • Al Latham
    December 28, 2013 - 16:05

    If Heaven is full of people like the Robertson's then I'll be more than happy to reside in Hell...Amen!

  • Marshall Art
    December 28, 2013 - 11:21

    Hey, yo mama, what 'makes me any better than Phil' ? Let me try to explain it to you, yo mama; I have a problem with narrow minded, judgmental bigots like Phil Robertson. The right to free speech does not give one the right to discriminate, and he has done exactly that with his bible thumping, ignorant rant about gays being sinners and being condemned to hell.

  • Mack Hall
    December 27, 2013 - 09:12

    Does this family of millionaires ever give a thought to the poor Chinese workers who make them rich? Will Mr. Robertson take a trip to China and inspect the conditions of the factories in which all his labeled junk is made?

  • Donna Harding Pike
    December 26, 2013 - 13:56

    I love A&E, but I love Duck Dynasty more. Maybe they could be picked up by another network who appreciates the clan for their beliefs and well as their reality of the world we're living in. What happened to the right to speak your mind? I'm with the Ducks. xo

    • Dood
      December 27, 2013 - 08:55

      Interesting that you choose the word "clan" to decribe them.

  • Marshall Art
    December 25, 2013 - 21:09

    Oh yeah, that's true, outsiders of West Monroe, Louisiana don't understand the rural, , Christian part of that country'. The outsiders need to bang some logs together, put on their shorty pants an' climb their climbin' poles.

  • Marshall Art
    December 25, 2013 - 18:56

    Phil Robertson , like Jethro in the Beverly Hillbillies, should go take a dip in his 'cement pond' and decide whether he wants to be a brain surgeon or 'a' astronaut. The show is a hit thanks to the good folks in Louisiana who probably love nothing better than banging some logs together, puttin' on their shorty pants and climbin' their climbin' poles. lol

  • Marshall Art
    December 25, 2013 - 16:46

    Jesus was a man and had 12 disciples, all men. Surprising that Phil Robertson, with his narrow minded, redneck views, didn't have a problem with that also.

    • yo mama
      December 27, 2013 - 08:28

      Marshall Art, after those comments, what makes you any better than Phil?