Freedom of Expression

While the United States condemns hateful speech and we deplore speech that deliberately denigrates believers of any religion, we do not ban it. Banning and punishing offensive or hateful speech is neither an effective approach to combating intolerance nor an appropriate role for government to play. Suppressing ideas never makes them go away. In fact, to do so can be counter-productive, raise the profile of the offensive ideas, and force hateful ideologies to fester in dangerous ways.

We believe the best antidote to offensive and hateful speech is dialogue that counters and responds to such speech by refuting it, causing the hateful speech to fall under its own weight. The United States also undertakes a number of proactive measures to counter intolerance. For example, government officials speak out against such speech at the highest levels and we urge others to do the same. We also enforce a robust combination of legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, and engage in governmental outreach to minority and other populations.

We also educate; foster interfaith discussions; urge political, religious, and societal leaders to speak out and condemn offensive expression; create mechanisms to identify and address areas of tension between communities; train government officials on outreach strategies; and encourage leaders to discuss causes of discrimination and potential solutions with their communities.

The international community has endorsed a similar kind of practical, effective approach that protects freedoms of expression and religion in UNGA resolution 66/167. As former Secretary Clinton said at the Istanbul ministerial which launched the implementation of this UN initiative, “Under this resolution, the international community is taking a strong stand for freedom of expression and worship, and against discrimination and violence based upon religion or belief. These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places, and they are certainly essential to democracy.

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