WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama on Tuesday (Sept. 25) gave a forceful speech at the United Nations, in which he challenged much of the world’s assumptions about free speech and religion.
Here are five points from his address, which together, add up to as close to an Obama Doctrine on Religion as we’ve seen:
1. Blasphemy must be tolerated, however intolerable
The idea that the U.S. protects even vile speech, so ingrained in American culture, seems counterintuitive to much of the world. It’s an especially tough concept when speech targets a religion, but Obama argued that restrictions on speech too often become weapons to suppress religion – especially the rights of religious minorities.
“Given the power of faith in our lives, and the passions that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech,” Obama said.
Moreover, he continued, no one can control speech even if he or she wanted to.
“When anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete,” Obama said.
2. Religious respect is a two-way street
Obama went on the offensive: If you’re going to denounce intolerance against your own religion, he said, you must also call out those who demean the religion of others.
“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” the president said. “Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.”
The rest of the article may be found on Religion News Service.