Hate Speech Is Free Speech

TheHonestAtheist December 17, 2017
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Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. — Howard Dean, Thursday, April 20th, 2017 via a tweet

How mind-numbingly ridiculous it is that a former governor does not know or understand the United States Constitution. In fact many people don't understand our rights. We are beginning to see our freedom of speech melt away, ever so slowly, as students do not understand the fundamentals of the Bill of Rights.

First no one has a solid grasp on what hate speech is. One can't find a definition in any law book, nor will one be able to come up with a decent definition. Hate speech is merely a matter of perspective. Some cultures find the exact speech we deem as normal as demeaning, but that can't be accepted as being hate speech.

Further, the precendent for hate speech is backed by court hearings. In a Supreme Court case in 1969, the court ruled Ohio could not bar the Ku Klux Klan from its public speech even when it promoted illegal activity. In another landmark case in 1992, the court overturned a Minnesota law that had made it illegal to display any token that "arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender," in this case, a burning cross. When family members of a deceased soldier sued the Westboro Baptist Church for anti-gay posters at the soldier's funeral, the court determined the church not liable.

Some people consider words that are seen as a threat or intended to instigate a fight are called hate speech. However, constitutional law will tell us that such speech is just a threat, is not afforded First Amendment protection, but cannot be labeled as "hate speech."

The consensus seems to be the belief that because the people saying something are people we don't like, or because the speech is especially phobic, that it must be illegal, is just flat out wrong. In the court cases above, we are certainly looking at individuals and groups I'd not associate with, but the law is not written so that we don't become offended, or so we can hear the things we want to.

Free speech is about allowing everyone the right to speak out, without fear of retribution from our government. This includes hate speech. As soon as the government starts to draw the line and say that it is illegal to say something transphobic, what is to keep them from tomorrow saying it is illegal to speak ill against the government? The line is drawn by the Bill of Rights at very clear juncture to prevent ambiguity.

Today's political climate as become increasingly hostile to free speech in general. Republicans and Democrats alike have always been supportive of free speech, but some news is shockingly not so at present. After the Charlottesville Nazi rally, leftist crazed protesters insisted there should be no speech for fascists. Meanwhile, the Republican party and presidential office threatened repercussions to news stations for their comedy sketches, firings for football players who are indifferent to the American flag, and revocation of citizenship for flag-burners.

Carefully consider how quickly we jump to punish hate speech. Such a freedom allows better press, more open debate, and more accountability of our government.


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