Is hate speech protected by the first amendment? To put it simply, yes it is. But it is more complicated than that. In the case R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992) it makes things more clear to some people. In this case a young white male burned a cross on a black family’s lawn. Under Minnesota law it is illegal to place, on public or private property, a burning cross, swastika, or other symbol likely to arouse “anger, alarm, or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender.” The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Minnesota law was unconstitutional because it violated the youth’s First Amendment free speech rights. He could have been held responsible for damages done to the property. In the second case, Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993), Mitchell and several black youth were outside a movie theater after viewing Mississippi Burning, in which several blacks are beaten. A white youth happened to walk by, and Mitchell yelled, “There goes a white boy; go get him!” Mitchell and the others attacked and beat the boy. This hate speech was tried and they were found guilty.
So what’s the difference well one was a public display the other was physical and seen as fighting words. Fighting words or words that target one person to act in a violent way are not protected by the first amendment. So in a heated debate you cannot say hateful words to cause them to react but you could write them on a sign and protest with the same words. So you can express your opinion in public but you can not confront someone who may take offense to it with those same opinions.
ABA Division for Public Education: Students: Debating the “Mighty Constitutional Opposites”: Hate Speech Debate
“ABA Division For Public Education: Students: Debating The “Mighty Constitutional Opposites”: Hate Speech Debate”. Americanbar.org. N. p., 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo: First Amendment doesn’t cover hate speech
“CNN’s Chris Cuomo: First Amendment Doesn’t Cover Hate Speech”. @politifact. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Volokh, E. and Volokh, E.
Volokh, Eugene and Eugene Volokh. “No, There’S No “Hate Speech” Exception To The First Amendment”. Washington Post. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.