President Barack Obama’s remarks concerning the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in Benghazi raise troubling questions. In a statement released at WhiteHouse.gov, Obama states, “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.” Really? The U.S. “rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others“? How? Is there a government agency that monitors people’s views on religion? Is there a law that governs speech in this manner? More to the point, has the White House ever seen the movie “Religulous”? (Or, for that matter, Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”!) Has the president read Ed Harris’s “The End of Faith”?
When has the United States ever been anything but a champion free expression?
Regarding people’s attempts to “denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” this is a difficult issue to parse. I was certainly appalled when Terry Jones, a pastor from Florida, burned the Koran — from the standpoint of Christian virtue, I believe even that he offended God — but I supported his inalienable right to do so. (I would have found his action more “heroic” he had done so in Pakistan, however.) But is not Islam a critic of Christianity? Does not Islam denigrate Christian faith by saying Christians are wrong about Jesus’s divinity?
I understand that Obama wishes to placate Muslims offended by a patently offensive YouTube video about the prophet Muhammad (details of the video can be found here), but I do not believe it is wise to dismiss the right of free expression in the name of appeasement. To reject senseless violence is to champion speech that denigrates even religion.
Update: Political fallout from Romney camp — http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/12/13831714-timeline-political-fallout-from-the-attack-on-diplomats-in-libya?lite
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