preview

The Freedom Of Speech: The Limitations Of Hate Speech

Good Essays
The American Bar Association defines hate speech as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits” and while that provides for an adept general understanding of the term, it gives no direction nor implication of how and if such speech should be limited or prohibited. It is inherently difficult to try and capture all the complexities of both sides of the argument regarding hate speech, and attempting to find a middle ground is possibly even more troublesome. We are a nation built upon guaranteed individual rights. We pride ourselves in our basic freedoms which include the freedom of speech as designated by the First Amendment allowing everyone,…show more content…
If there can be violence without the presence of hate speech, then there can be hate speech without violence. Most importantly, one’s right to their constitutional freedoms is nonnegotiable. The approach that should be taken is effectively making a distinction between hate speech and acts of hate. Citizens have the right to speak their mind, even if it is disrespectful to many, but that does not allow them or others to physically act upon it and cause harm to other civilians, for which they can and definitely ought to be punished. However, this becomes increasingly difficult as the Court has ruled many times that some non-verbal acts are considered speech, as seen in Johnson v. Texas, and vice versa in that all speech is essentially some act. When the lines between hate speech and hateful acts are so blurred, it is almost impossible to definitively decide what can be limited or prohibited. However, in the end, the goal of those advocating for the limitation of hate speech is to ensure the safety of potential victims of hate speech, to make sure they are not physically wronged in any manner. Hence, the best solution is to allow for complete free speech but punish those who harm others, whether or not that harm was done by an act or…show more content…
v. City of St. Paul (1992), a group of white teenagers burned a cross made of chair legs inside the yard of a black family. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the teenagers despite their abhorrent act because they were charged under the St. Paul Bias Motivated Crime Ordinance, which is in itself content discriminatory and violates the First Amendment. It is facially unconstitutional because it prohibits speech solely based on the subject the speech is antagonizing. The court did not, however, make any ruling regarding the teenagers’ act itself. There is no doubt that the act is reprehensible and the teenagers are liable for property damage and intimidating a family, but the charge brought upon them focused on their motivation rather than their criminal acts. The optimal way to deal with hate speech is not to limit or prohibit it any manner, as that will only further enrage people as they feel they are being stripped of their constitutional rights, which they indeed are. Control over hate speech is not going to be a successful deterrent, but imposing stricter laws and regulations will. They discourage volatile acts without punishing an individual for their beliefs, even if they are contrary to the majority’s. To argue against the limitation of hate speech is not automatically equivalent to being racist or not caring about the well-being of others, specifically minority targets, but understanding the manner in which our Constitution operates. Our founding fathers