It has been more than a week since violent protests erupted across the Muslim world, ostensibly in reaction to a YouTube clip, called “The Innocence of Muslims,” an amateur video that rudely disparages the life and works of the prophet Mohammed.

In spite of some initial missteps, the Obama administration is now forthrightly condemning the attackers — as it should — but administration officials remain unduly apologetic about America’s constitutional commitment to freedom of expression.

In a statement last Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained: “I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day.

“Now, I would note that in today’s world with today’s technologies, that is impossible. But even if it were possible, our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our Constitution and our law, and we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views, no matter how distasteful they may be.”

Consider that paragraph carefully: it begins with a statement of sympathy with those who would censor the controversial video; next it says that the Internet makes effective censorship impossible — as if our government would have censored the video had it possessed the technical means to do so; only at the last does it suggest that our Constitution protects freedom of expression.

What Clinton never explains, and what President Barack Obama also has yet to explain, is why it is a good thing that our Constitution protects this freedom and why we should not want to censor “The Innocence of Muslims” or any other work of art, letters or science, even if we could do so.

Here’s what the secretary, or the president, should say:

The framers of the First Amendment understood that the culture of a free society is the greatest of all common goods any government can provide. Our common prosperity, our national leadership in the sciences and the arts — even our position as the most religious of any industrialized nation — are all a consequence of our robust culture of freedom.

Freedom of expression benefits our citizens directly, by securing to each citizen the space to develop his or her talents, ideas and personality to the fullest.

Freedom of expression protects our citizens indirectly, by depriving the government of a dangerous power that promises to do little good, but can readily be used in support of oppression and tyranny.

The fundamental problem with empowering the government to censor offensive, heretical or blasphemous speech is that offense, heresy and blasphemy are inherently subjective.

One believer’s creed is blasphemy to the believer of another faith.

I am sure that some people sincerely hold the “Innocence of Muslims” video to be blasphemous.

I am equally sure that many others sincerely believe — as I do — that there can be no greater blasphemy than to declare that God commands us to avenge with violence and murder any expression we regard as slights to divine honor.

To keep our government from becoming a weapon of sectarian conflict, our First Amendment mandates that the government protect the freedom of expression and the freedom to worship for all.

It is for that same reason that we refuse any suggestion that we enact laws that would criminalize speech that slights, mocks or disparages religions, or that offends believers.

If they were applied consistently, such laws would substantially limit our freedom. America is a vast and richly diverse nation, with so many religions and so many believers to be offended, that we could only fully protect the sensitivities of all by mandating universal silence — which we will never do.

Applied inconsistently, as they surely would be, laws against giving religious offense would be a tool of oppression. Nor do we imagine that censoring YouTube would endear us to the violent mobs now rampaging across the Middle East. The offending video was only the trigger, but not the cause, of this violence.

The cause of this violence is political: The rioters favor a repressive, theocratic politics. By attacking Americans who embody the freedom they abhor, they seek to force their own governments to embrace their intolerance.

If this video had not been there to fuel the protests, the partisans of theocracy would have found some other pretext for violence. We will never answer their demands for repression with appeasement.

Freedom has made our people and our country great, and we will never apologize for our constitutional law of freedom.

Joseph R. Reisert is associate professor of American constitutional law and chairman of the department of government at Colby College in Waterville.

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