Should hate speech be legal?


Fact Box

  • Freedom of Speech is the first of ten amendments found in the Bill of Rights. The US Constitution was ratified in 1791, and the First Amendment includes the freedom of religion, press, assembly, and the right to bear arms.
  • “Hate speech” is defined as 'public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.”
  • In the US, “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment.
  • Legal restrictions to speech include: obscenity, lying while under oath (perjury), inciting treason or immediate violence, limited free speech for students in public schools, sexual harassment, certain protesting.
  • Hate crime laws are constitutional as long as they target violence or vandalism.
  • Many European countries and Canada have hate speech laws in place that, when compared, infringe on the freedoms expressed in the US First Amendment.

Mandy (Yes)

You can't criminalize hate speech because hate speech doesn't exist. 'Hate' is a subjective term, defined as '[having] a strong aversion to; find very distasteful.' 'Hate' varies from person to person. Something one person might hate, another might not. Therefore, every person could be engaging in hate speech every day. Despite what any particular group might ascribe as 'hateful,' the act of at least discussing that detestation (or approval) should not be criminalized

America's founding fathers understood people need freedom to say anything, including things that might be offensive to some. Abolitionists speaking up against slavery were considered 'hateful' or 'distasteful' to Slavers, yet that speech was protected. The US Constitution protects all speech since all speech is paramount in furthering civilization and philosophy. 

Though there are regulatory limitations on objectively harmful speech, such as perjuring oneself, yelling fire in crowded theater, hiring a hitman, or brainwashing followers to murder (such as in Charles Manson's 'family murders'). All the above speech limitations punish the perpetrators of the crime (from the perjurer to the brainwasher), not the Tweeter/Columnist/Author/Speaker, who makes a claim you may not like.

'But what if the Tweeter/Columnist/Author/Speaker gets a following, and those people go crazy and attack someone?' Unless this person explicitly directs their followers to commit a crime, it's protected First Amendment speech. Bernie Sanders isn't responsible for the fact that one of his supporters shot Rep. Steve Scalise. Nor was Rep. Maxine Waters held accountable for her incendiary calls to harass political opponents. Criminalizing the subjective term 'hate' opens up all society to a world where every word can be censored and every action criminalized.

Fatima (No)

'Words have power, be careful how you use them,' says Germany Kent. Language used to insult someone's race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation should not be tolerated at any point. History shows the drastic effects hateful speech has had on entire nations and generations—African Americans, Muslims, and females being prime examples.

Racist and religious hate speech might top the list and pose the highest threats since it can, and sometimes does, lead to actual harm, such as threats and assaults. A person does not choose the race they are born into, and human rights fully allow freedom of religion; thus, no one should be demeaned on such a basis. In recent times, individuals holding high offices of authority have discriminated against many races, which has caused adverse effects for them worldwide. Thus, from racial slurs to Islamophobia, hate speech has allowed for damaging, rude and unjust notions to be perpetuated globally.

From schools to parliaments, words wrapped in abhorrence are spewed towards others. Young teenagers worldwide are body shamed and made to believe by negative remarks (in person and through cyber hate speech) that their bodies are not enough, while people of color are bullied just for being who they are – females more so. In all these cases, the instigator has been hate speech, leading many to experience adverse consequences, such as psychological stress and disorders. Therefore, while the freedom of speech is to be rightfully taken up by every individual, it's power should not be abused to hurt or inflict harm on anyone or used as hate speech.

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