Hate Speech is Free Speech
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
The First Amendment reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While the language of the amendment is clear, so far as to say that individuals have the right to express their thoughts and opinions without infringement, leftists increasingly claim that hate speech is not free speech.
Hate speech is free speech.
While most hate speech is clearly defined, such as racist or anti-Semitic slurs, some liberals let emotional bias dictate what should be considered hate speech. This acts as a blank check for 'anything that offends me'. Saying hate speech is not free speech is ludicrous. It sounds as ridiculous as saying you believe in physics but not gravity.
My rights do not end where your feelings begin.
Even the aforementioned clear forms of hate speech are still free speech and should be protected at all costs.
Perhaps the most important clause of the First Amendment is the freedom of speech clause. Freedom of speech means freedom of thought, and freedom of thought is crucial to the success of a democracy. Why? Because freedom of thought ensures that there is room for open, essential, debate about legislation, policy initiatives, and the direction the country moves in.
More importantly, freedom of speech means the freedom of expression. If we limit hate speech, we limit expression. When we start dictating what is and isn't acceptable forms of expression, we lose the very essence of what makes the United States free. We run the risk of falling down the slippery slope of how far the government can extend its power in limiting speech, and eventually, other rights.
Hate speech has consistently been affirmed by the Supreme Court as free speech, most recently in the 2017 Matal v. Tam case. The issue at hand was whether the government had the right to prohibit the registration of trademarks that are "racially disparaging". SCOTUS ruled that there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Other cases include Snyder v. Phelps and Virginia v. Black.
Further, defining hate speech is impossible. Every American has a different perception of what constitutes hate speech. What offends one person may not offend another person, and thus the problem becomes where exactly do we draw an equitable line?
You cannot draw a line that is discretionary. It is wrong, it is impossible, and it is unconstitutional.
Now, is anyone advocating for the use of derogatory and inexcusable terms? Absolutely not. There’s no place in society for this language.
However, even if we find certain language offensive and inexcusable we must retain absolute sovereignty over all of our rights and not allow the government to dictate how that right can be exercised. Of course there are narrow restrictions, such as language that explicitly incites violence or is considered defamatory. However, a majority of what the average American considers to be 'hate speech' is legally considered free speech.
So as much as it hurts to understand this, hate speech must always be protected as free speech.
To learn more about the First Amendment check out The First Amendment: A Deep Dive Into The History Behind It!