Tag Archives: hate speech

Where Does Hate Speech Cross the Line?

Ever since the Constitution was written, freedom of speech has been a guaranteed right granted to all Americans. As times are changing, the question of where hate speech fits into this right to speak freely has heavily been debated. Hate speech is defined by the American Bar Association as speech that offends, threatens or insults groups based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits. The word used in this definition, threats, is one that alarms many readers as they believe dangerous threats should not be protected by laws and should be taken seriously by police and the court of law. This being said, is hate speech protected by the first amendment and if so, when should hate speech no longer be protected under law? In the United States Supreme Court case, Elonis vs U.S. (2014), saw Anthony Elonis threatening his ex-wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, a FBI agent and the local police via Facebook. After a long court process, Elonis was sentenced to forty-four months in prison with three years of supervision upon his release. During the trials, it was argued that the threats were not “true threats” and that it was a violation of the first amendment if he were to be imprisoned. The court ultimately ruled that the threats were an act of danger and was convicted of four out of the five counts. This displays the difference of saying strongly worded opinions against different people and threatening them. In this particular case, threats were not protected by the first amendment due to the fact that people’s lives were targeted through the threats.

On the other end of this topic of threats versus hate speech, the Supreme Court Case of Brandenburg v Ohio (1969) favored on the side of the person being charged for making threats. Brandenburg was an active member of the KKK in Ohio and was arrested for making threats that implied he was calling for an overthrow of the government. Once the case got all the way to the Supreme Court, it was ruled that no violent or illegal actions followed the threat and that the Ohio Court violated Brandenburg’s right to freedom of speech granted by the first amendment. The idea of threats versus hate speech is still heavily debated nearly 50 years after this case came to a close as the definition of threats and hate speech still do not have a clear separation. Overall, the first amendment protects Americans through the freedom of speech, but the debate on hate speech versus threats questions how the extent of this freedom of speech.

Through court cases and the definitions of hate speech, it can be determined that threats are protected by the first amendment unless someone’s life is in danger or the threat sparks violence or crimes being committed.


Works Cited:

“ABA Division For Public Education: Students: Debating The “Mighty Constitutional Opposites”: Hate Speech Debate”. Americanbar.Org, 2018, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/initiatives_awards/students_in_action/debate_hate.html. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“Brandenburg V. Ohio”. Oyez, 2018, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“Facts And Case Summary – Elonis V. U.S.”. United States Courts, 2018, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-elonis-v-us. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“What Is THREAT? Definition Of THREAT (Black’s Law Dictionary)”. The Law Dictionary, 2018, https://thelawdictionary.org/threat/. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.

“6 Major US Supreme Court Hate Speech Cases”. Thoughtco, 2018, https://www.thoughtco.com/hate-speech-cases-721215. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.



Hate Speech; Can it be good?

IS/should Hate Speech be protected under the First Amendment. To begin Hate Speech is defined as, “Speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as, race, religion, sex, ethnicity, origin, etc…” As of right now Hate Speech is protected by the Constitution under the first amendment. This means the government can not put you in jail, fine you, etc… for Hate Speech, unless you are calling for violence/ Fighting Words. I believe this is the way it should be because people should be able to express their beliefs and opinions. Also, once some of our free speech rights get taken away it’s only a matter of time before they all do.

An example of someone trying to take away Free Speech is the recent court case of Matal v. Tam. In this case a band was trying to register their name, The Slants, with the U.S. Trademark Office they were originally turned down because it was seen as offensive toward Asian people, but after they took it to court the band ended up winning because under the first amendment they were protected.

Another example of someone being protected to express their opinion would be the court case of  Snyder v. Phelps . In this case the Westboro Baptist church went to a military funeral and posted signs and chanted anti-gay statements. The family sued and won 5 million in composition for emotional distress, but the Westboro Baptist Church was granted the right to keep protesting under the first amendment.

Altho, there are cases where people cross a line, Hate Speech should still be protected under our rights so people can express themselves as long as it never escalates  into fighting words and calls for violence.

Hate Speech- Rules and Regulations?

The right to express oneself is guaranteed under the first amendment of the constitution. However, should offensive and demeaning expression be allowed in public institutions, such as college campuses and schools?

There are already some limits placed on the freedom of expression, such as the restraint of using fighting words. Fighting words are the language used to incite violence and put others in danger. A category of fighting words is hate speech or speech that demeans any minority group. Because demeaning speech is such a subjective term,  penalizing those who abuse their first amendment rights can be quite difficult. In March 1989, UW Madison passed its hate speech code, which allowed anyone who displayed “discriminatory… behavior directed at individuals that intentionally demean[s]” or “create[d] an intimidating or hostile environment for education” to be disciplined.

In 2016, a fan attended a UW Madison football game wearing a costume depicting President Obama wearing a noose. Other students, offended by the costume, took to social media and tweeted the image and caught the attention of the university. UW Madison asked the fan to remove the “offensive parts of the costume”, but there was no information to point that this request was a result of a violation of the hate speech code. The fan, however, did report to removes the offensive parts of his costume.

Although hate speech and fighting words are still an ambiguous concept, colleges, like UW Madison, have been able to put regulations on what they have determined to be hate speech through various plans and drafts. Public institutions should input their own codes to the best of their ability and be open to change in order to best serve their students.

Hate Speech: Should it be Covered Under the First Amendment?

As stated by the constitution, the First Amendment applies that it is illegal to make laws that limit one’s freedom of speech or religion, yet where is can that line being crossed? Many people are capable of determining right from wrong, yet hate speech is still viable in the world today. Frequently on debate, one side claims that hate speech is covered under the First Amendment, while others believe it is both harmful and only causes problems.

According to American cognitive linguist and philosopher, George P. Lakoff, he states in his article, Why Hate Speech Is Not Free, “Like violence, hate speech can also be a physical imposition on the freedom of others. This is because language has a psychological effect imposed physically – on the neural system, with long-term crippling effects.” Essentially, Lakoff is imposing that hate speech can do the same damage as violence. For example, a racial slur can be as hurtful as getting slapped in the face. Continuing in his article, Lakoff states “… hate speech imposes on the freedom of those targeted by the hate. Sense being free in a free society requires not imposing on the freedom of others, hate speech does not fall under the category of free speech.” After reading Lakoff’s article, it seems that we can connect hate speech and fighting words due to the fact that they both can incite or bring harm upon others.

On the other side of the debate, hate speech is a form of freedom of expression which is covered by the First Amendment. In the court case of Matal v. Tam, the patent and trademark office denied a band wanting to be called “the slants” due to the derogatory term used in their name that can be offensive to Asian-Americans. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled a firm 8 to 0 decision in favor of the name, indicating that hate speech is covered under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States chose that it is important to protect the people’s right to freedom of expression instead of eliminating a term that could be hurtful to others.

In conclusion, hate speech is intentionally covered by the First Amendment under the case of freedom of expression, yet I believe that it should not be covered at all. Hate speech is crossing the line when a statement or action brings hurt and shame to another person or group. By allowing this type of expression, the constitution is essentially creating happiness for the bully or speaker. Why would you allow someone to hurtfully disagree with others in a free society where you are suppose to encourage other ideas? By allowing such harmful actions take place in our world today, clearly no benefits could possibly come from such commotion.


Work Cited:









Liberty or Security, How Far are We Willing to Give Up Our Freedom?

Our First Amendment arguably is the most important to us citizens of the U.S.. It gives us the freedom to say what we want and do what we want. Some examples include practicing  our own religion,  and having the right to say what’s on one’s mind. It is  clear to say as well  that many people over the span from the beginning of our country’s founding have fought and argued our First Amendment. Whether or not if it really is protecting us, either from choosing our sexuality, or to being ridiculed or harassed on racist terms. Many have stated that we need to do more to protect people from threats , or mean words, which they call  ‘Hate Speech’. The only problem is, in my mind, how much regulation and restrictions will it take for our liberty to be smeared away in replace for a whole bunch of security?

If you are one who doesn’t see a problem with more security and safety, let me remind you of some countries in the past who have done that. Such as the Soviet Union, which the people gave up many freedoms for the government to protect them and control them. Another example is many fascist societies  gave up many freedoms to protect them from enemies. Simply, there are many reasons why giving up our freedoms is bad, and to re-write  the first amendment to ban against ‘Hate Speech(which isn’t defined by the Supreme Court) might let us finally slip down the slope if we aren’t careful. I understand that people have a reason to call someone out if they are making racist comments, but if the comments aren’t fighting words(words used to incite violence), or slander, how do we decide, and protect both freedom of words and decency? The answer might be clearer than thought, because according to Paul Larkin, Senior Legal Research Fellow, “The proper way to balance security and liberty is not to balance them at all; it is to insist on policies that maximize both to the extent practicable.” So instead of trying to change the First Amendment entirely, in a way to balance safety from words to actual depending threats, we the people should separate these from the First Amendment. For it might be the stone that knocks our rights down the hill, even if it is over ‘Hate Speech’. Some Supreme Court Cases that in the past have seemed to be related to ‘Hate Speech’, are cases like Beauharnais v. Illinois (1952). Where they stated that ‘Hate Speech’ is not protected speech, but the issue is does the protection of “liberty” in the Due Process Clause prevent a state from punishing libel towards a group? The debate over this is hot, and might be the biggest thing as a nation we have to face and decide over.

In conclusion, deciding whether the people of the U.S. want more security over their liberties, is a tough and opinionated question to answer. The only thing that the people should know is a quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”



Larkin, Paul. “How Must America Balance Security and Liberty.” The Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org/homeland-security/report/how-must-america-balance-security-and-liberty.

“Beauharnais v. Illinois.” Casebriefs Beauharnais v Illinois Comments, http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-chemerinsky/first-amendment-freedom-of-expression/beauharnais-v-illinois/.

Volokh, Eugene. “Opinion | Supreme Court Unanimously Reaffirms: There Is No ‘Hate Speech’ Exception to the First Amendment.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 June 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/06/19/supreme-court-unanimously-reaffirms-there-is-no-hate-speech-exception-to-the-first-amendment/?utm_term=.c5bc48f35483.

The First Amendment Exists, But Does Hate Speech?

Hate speech is a subject that appears to be easy to define. One may assume that hate speech is any kind of racially or religiously hateful slander. In actuality, it is much more.  Hate speech is hard to define, some people even argue that it cannot be defined. After all, one person’s hate speech is another person’s beliefs.

            Before we can define hate speech, we need to first debate whether or not it should be protected. Looking at a case in December of 2012 in Haywood county North Carolina may help shed some light on both sides1. When confederate flags were removed from the monument outside of the capitol building, a group called “The Sons of Confederate Veterans” got a hold of a lawyer, and looked for war. They claimed that they were not a hateful group looking for trouble. Their motive is to remember their ancestors who died fighting for their beliefs. The county finds the flags offensive and hateful however. Even though the flags don’t cause harm, and are 100% constitutional, should they be considered unconstitutional?

             But what about when hate speech can incite violence? Many people argue that hate speech can do nothing other than incite violence. It wasn’t found unconstitutional when a “White lives matter” rally was shut down on the Texas A&M campus in 20172Rallies like these can only bring harm to a campus and the people in the neighboring town, which is exactly why this one was shut down. 

             So what exactly should we do? If we were to deem hate speech unconstitutional, we could be safer from incited violence. If we allowed it, the citizens of america could freely express their opinion, a privilege not often seen elsewhere. But what would we define hate speech as? Unfortunately, we will never truly be able to identify hate speech, but we can tell what is hurtful. Instead on focusing on defining an undefinable problem, we should focus on creating a country where equality is not only enforced, but encouraged, where all people have the right to grow and speak together.

Continue reading The First Amendment Exists, But Does Hate Speech?

Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.


EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley