The Obama administration is a little late to the party. While this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others are speaking out against a U.N. resolution aimed at fighting so-called defamation of religions, an earlier compromise hatched by the administration gave up too much ground.
Michael Posner, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for human rights, democracy and labor, worked with Egypt to draft compromise language that condemns religion-oriented harassment and discrimination. He has been quoted as saying the administration wanted to distinguish between defamation and harassment.
FindLaw.com columnist and law professor Marci Hamilton, left, argues the administration bent over too far.
That compromise “expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative racial and religious stereotyping of religions and racial groups continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law international human rights, to address and combat such incidents …
“Recognizes the positive contribution that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, particularly by the media, including through information and communication technologies such as the Internet, and full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information can make to the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and to preventing human rights abuses, but expresses regret at the promotion by certain media of false images and negative stereotypes of vulnerable individuals or groups of individuals, and at the use of information and communication technologies such as the Internet for purposes contrary to respect for human rights, in particular the perpetration of violence against and exploitation and abuse of women and children, and disseminating racist and xenophobic discourse or content …”
Clinton was quoted as saying Monday, "Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies. … I strongly disagree. The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions."
But Hamilton notes that Clinton also has been less firm.
Hamilton points out that the AP has also said of Clinton that the United States was opposed to negative depictions of specific faiths — "which sounds very much like an anti-free speech position" to her.
The professor says the administration, instead of acceding to any compromise, should have attacked the resolution head on, reminding the world what Americans think of militant Islamists who wish to destroy American and American values.
“To take a position in favor of suppressing speech about religions — especially at this time in history — is to choose to put aside one of our most important weapons against death, oppression, and tyranny,” she writes. “Offering a ‘middle ground’ cedes far more ground than the Islamic countries supporting the resolution — especially those who are host to militant Islamicists yet fail to effectively combat them — deserve on this point.”
Hamilton calls the administration a disappointment when it comes to freedom of religion and free speech.
You can’t compromise with irrational fanatics, and the best way to combat them is freely and fully attack their premises at every available opportunity, until the world is persuaded to shun them and their false beliefs.