By Bob Allen
A Freewill Baptist family ministry has cancelled an upcoming appearance by Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson after the TV family announced recently it was entering the wine business.
Derek Bell, director of development for Free Will Baptist Family Ministries in Greeneville, Tenn., said Robertson’s appearance at a fundraiser to benefit a school expansion project would send the wrong message to the people who go through the organization’s drug and alcohol program.
“Our greatest responsibility is to the young people we serve,” Bell said in a statement. “Therefore, we feel that in light of the recent news that the stars of the show Duck Dynasty are partnering with Trinchero Family Estates to launch Duck Commander Wines, to continue with this event would send mixed messages to the young people who go through our Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Program.”
On Nov. 1 the California winemaker unveiled Duck Commander, a brand associated with the hit A&E reality show that follows the misadventures of a Louisiana family whose patented duck call company started in 1973 grew into a multi-million dollar business.
The show resonates with many Bible Belt evangelicals, who identify with its tight-knit family values that include mealtime prayers.
Family member and CEO Willie Robertson had agreed to appear in Bristol, Tenn., to raise money for a $1.65-million expansion project to provide updated classroom space and counseling facilities for the children that Family Ministries serves.
“This expansion will allow all the children to have individual work stations with computers, one-on-one space with teachers and a chapel that can be used as a chapel or as a multipurpose area,” Frank Woods, president/CEO of Free Will Baptist Family Ministries, said in a news release last summer.
Robertson’s speech on faith and family values was originally scheduled for Oct. 19, but got postponed until next April due to scheduling conflicts. Ministry officials said they hope people who have already purchased tickets understand their decision and are offered a refund.
Started as an orphanage in 1939, Family Ministries has grown to include six residential group homes, therapeutic foster care, a crisis-pregnancy center and retirement and assisted living communities.
Its adolescent alcohol and drug treatment program is an intensive 60-day course to help youth dealing with addictions and those exhibiting behaviors related to moderate abuse and misuse of alcohol and drugs.
“The program works with them through a wide range of techniques, and with their families as well, in dealing with their substance abuse,” according to a program description. “We are thankful the program has a very high success rate because we realize only God can change a heart.”
Bell said not withdrawing the invitation would send those young people a mixed message.
“Our message must be consistent,” he said. “The lives of those children may well hang in the balance.”
“We certainly apologize to the people who have already purchased tickets, and pray they understand our position,” Bell said.