Did The President Attack The First Amendment Today, Or Was It An Attack on Blasphemy?

Every conservative website seems to be carrying the following sentence from the President’s speech today and my own Facebook page shows folks are apoplectic over it:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

By those words, some make the case that the sentence is proof of anything from Obama’s disrespect for the First Amendment to his support for terrorists who kill for cartoons.

Obviously I would not support the President on any of those things.

Yet when I read the transcript and saw the larger context, I couldn’t help but wonder (just wondering here – not asserting) if the President was actually making the case that blasphemy is bad no matter whose religion is under attack. I can support that (not laws against blasphemy, but I’m a fan of politeness).

Now, analysis of these things usually goes something like this: If one generally dislikes the speaker, bad intentions are presumed and future bad acts based upon those intentions are feared.

If one generally likes the speaker, good intentions are presumed and no future bad acts are feared.

I’m not saying that is a bad way to go. Character matters, as does what we know about a person. If I’m an odds maker, I’m laying pretty good odds that I can infer bad intentions from a speech by Charles Manson and good intentions from a speech by Pope Benedict.

When dealing with the extremes it’s easy. It’s a little tougher when not.

So please take a read of the full context below and let me know what it all portends for his future acts, based upon what we know about the man who said it:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. 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. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.