WH on Pope’s Free Speech Comments: ‘No Act of Public Expression’ Justifies Violence

Melanie Arter | January 15, 2015 | 2:15pm EST
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White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, July 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday disagreed with Pope Francis’s comments on free speech, even when it applies to one’s religious faith.

While admitting that he had not read all of the pope’s comments, Earnest said, “This is something that the pope would readily agree on. There is no act of public expression in terms of free speech that would in any way justify an act of violence.”

“That is a principle that we have reiterated on a number of occasions, and it’s one that I’m happy to reiterate now,” said Earnest. “I think that it’s something that the vast majority of the world agrees with, and I think that is a part of the show of solidarity that we saw in Paris last weekend, was standing up for that principle.”

While traveling on the papal plane Thursday, the pope said if someone cursed at his mother, he can expect to be punched.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch." Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."

Francis said the terrorist attack in Paris could not be justified. He called it an “aberration” but he said some sort of reaction was expected.

Earnest said that “freedom of expression and freedom of speech also comes with a set of responsibilities.”

“This is part of the kinds of decisions that journalists like yourselves make on a regular basis about … what responsibilities go along with those rights,” Earnest said, adding “regardless of how one arrives at those kinds of ethical decisions, there is no scenario in which an act of free speech justifies an act of violence.”

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