updated 12/20/2013 AT 7:40 AM ET
•originally published 12/20/2013 AT 7:50 AM ET
While admitting his anti-gay comments were “coarse,” Phil Robertson’s family said Thursday night that he was speaking from the heart – and from the Bible – and that continuing to work on A&E’s Duck Dynasty without the family patriarch would be inconceivable.
A&E suspended Robertson this week for comments to GQ in which he likened homosexuality to bestiality, among other controversial remarks. In a statement posted to their website, the family defended him.
“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 reads in part. “While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible.”
“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.”
Robertson, 67, has been suspended from filming indefinitely. But the family says that without him, there is no show.
“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,” they write. “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.”
There has been a firestorm of debate over Robertson’s comments, with groups including GLAAD calling it hate speech and politicians including Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin calling it free speech.