He seemed to conflate tolerance of religious differences, which freedom of conscience requires, with respect for other people’s beliefs, which cannot be enforced without destroying freedom of conscience.
Obama muddied matters further by quoting Mohandas Gandhi’s puzzling declaration that “intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” This statement appears in a 1921 Young India article where Gandhi chastises “non-cooperating” lawyers for looking down on colleagues who did not join them in protesting British rule by refusing to participate in the legal system. That “arrogant assumption of superiority” was crucially different from violence, and Gandhi’s sloppy equation of the two is precisely the sort of confusion that defenders of free speech should be keen to correct.
Rauch explains why in Kindly Inquisitors. Quoting a law professor’s comparison of racial epithets to bullets, he notes the implication: “If you hurt me with words, I reply with bullets, and the exchange is even.”