LegalWorks Apostolate - Counsel for a Culture of Life

The Double Standard of Religious Freedom

By Noreen Daly

On September 11th, the 11th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city Benghazi was attacked. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack.

As Michael Terheyden reports in his September 24th article an attempt has been made by the Obama administration and others to lay the blame for inciting these attacks on "an obscure, 14-minute video clip that criticizes Muhammad and Islam" -- a video, mind you, that was posted on You Tube some six weeks ago.

Before the actual attacks in anticipation of the demonstrations, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Moreover, although President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton condemned the attacks in Benghazi, they reserved greater condemnation for the 6-week-old video. Mitt Romney described the administrations response as "disgraceful."

Romney is not the only one to react this way. As explained by Daren Jonescu in this September 15th article the harshest word hurled by the administration in its official response -- that is, the word "deplorable" -- "was used not to describe the unprovoked murder and public humiliation of Ambassador Stevens -- which is judged merely objectionable, unjustified, and senseless . . . but rather to describe the denigration of Islam in a movie."

This is a revealing reaction to groups who, as Jonescu notes, "are prepared to kill to achieve their theocratic goal of a global caliphate" and who "cite any unflattering mention of Islam as an excuse to kill as many non-Muslims as possible."

And where was the administration's defense of the free speech rights of all? Well, it was certainly not to be found in the U.S. Embassy's "reject[ion of] the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." In other words, free speech had better not hurt anyone's feelings.

In any event, although many have observed that the Obama administration's apologetic stance -- at best -- was ineffective in preventing this violence, relatively few have noted the hollow ring of the additional lip service that the statement of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo contained with respect to religious tolerance being a bedrock of American civilization. The statement insisted that "we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions" and that "Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy."

Really? How is this statement reconciled with the Obama administration's insistence that contraception and abortion coverage be rammed down the throats of Catholic laity and clerical institutions alike? Are we to believe that the administration would be equally apologetic to Catholics who -- offended by being forced to fund abortions -- attacked an abortion clinic and killed a few abortion doctors or politicians favoring legal abortion?

The Obama administration has sent the wrong message to our enemies abroad, and he has sent the wrong message to our citizenry at home. The lesson that the Obama Administration would teach is that respect for one's religious beliefs will only be afforded those who are easily provoked to violence and who will not hesitate to kill under the disguise of retorting an insult.

By every measure, the administration has more respect for an Islamic group responsible for the murder of four Americans than it does for nonviolent religious practitioners on the domestic front.

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