President Obama issued a defense of free speech and religious tolerance during a speech at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 25. Acknowledging that the esteem in which free speech is held in the United States is not universally shared, Obama argued that restrictions on speech can be used to suppress religion and that in protecting free speech, even blasphemy must be tolerated. He said that objecting to expressions of religious intolerance against one’s own religion required the rejection of such expressions against the faiths of others. He called violence never a legitimate reaction to speech, however offensive. The president cited U.S. religious diversity in making his case for tolerance abroad, offering it as a model for pluralism and harmony. He warned that religious intolerance and extremism could still derail the course of democratic movements sweeping the Arab world.
Speech and Tolerance
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