There was a nugget in President Obama’s widely criticized speech at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month that hasn’t received the notice –- and, frankly, the opprobrium -- that it deserved. (In fact, only Salon.com of all places, seems to have glommed onto it.) Towards the end of his remarks, the president sermonized thus:
But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment. And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults -- (applause) -- and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks. Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech. Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.
President Obama’s command that we are “obligated” -- not entitled, but “obligated” -- to condemn those who “insult another’s religion” came a mere month after twelve innocent people were murdered at Charlie Hebdo for just that “crime.”