Furor continues over Phil Robertson's suspension from A&E's "Duck Dynasty," with the family breaking its silence on Thursday to say that the show might not go on without the patriarch's involvement.
With uncertainty abounding, the "I Stand With Phil" movement continues to build, as hundreds of thousands of Christian consumers and free speech advocates urge the network to rethink its decision.
Faith Driven Consumer, a project that rates just how “faith-friendly” popular retailers are, has taken center stage in the debate, launching IStandWithPhil.com, a website devoted to convincing A&E that reinstating Robertson is the right thing to do.
TheBlaze interviewed founder Chris Stone to learn more about his goals in forging the effort.
"A&E is eliminating the viewpoints of their Christian audience, and we stepped in to provide an opportunity for Faith Driven Consumers to be heard by A&E, and to claim their place in the American rainbow of diversity," Stone told TheBlaze.
A screen shot from IStandWithPhil.com
Stone said that Faith Driven Consumer expects that fans will continue to stand up against Robertson's suspension and the limits that the network is placing on Christian fans' "opportunity to experience the entertainment that they desire as consumers."
Already the response to the campaign has been monumental. In the past 24 hours, Faith Driven Consumer reports 1,300 phone calls, 32,000 text messages and more than 135,000 signatures on a petition aiming to have Robertson reinstated.
Visitors to IStandWithPhil.com are encouraged to sign onto a letter that will be sent to A&E. It calls the network's treatment of Robertson "intolerant, discriminatory, and punitive" and calls the reality show star's comments about homosexuality, which he made in an interview with GQ Magazine, "reflective of a Biblical view of sexuality, marriage, and family."
In just one day, the group received two million page views on IStandWithPhil.com, with activity on social media surrounding the subject very literally exploding.
"It is our job to ensure that in the marketplace of ideas, Christian consumers have a voice and a seat at the table," Stone added. "That's tolerance and diversity. We aren't asking other folks to suspend their opinion; we are simply defending our right to have ours respected and included."
Regardless of whether Robertson is reinstated, Stone said that Faith Driven Consumer will continue to encourage religious consumers to support networks and brands that welcome and accommodate a Biblical worldview.
This publicity image released by A& E shows, from left, Phil Robertson, Si Robertson, and Jase Robertson in "Duck Dynasty," airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST. (Credit: Art Streiber /AP)
"We would also expect Faith Driven Consumers to support whichever network picks up the show after A&E and support brands who sell products associated with the show," he said.
Stone's group, which estimates that there are 46 million faith-based consumers in the U.S., recently released its annual “Faith Driven Consumer Christmas Guide,” a report that offers insight into companies that are seen as aligning with the Christian faith and those that need improvement.
Its effort to support Robertson is the latest undertaking, predicated upon the notion that there are tens of millions of Americans who make consumer decisions based upon their faith. The massive response to Faith Driven Consumer's "Duck Dynasty" petition shows the power that this segment of the marketplace can have over the national discussion.