Tag Archives: hate speech

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.


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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

Hate Speech vs. Free Speech

As of today, the First Amendment does not contain an exception for hate speech, meaning it is allowed and even protected under freedom of speech.  There is a limit to speech considered “fighting words,” or threats, but hate speech is not included because the First Amendment considers it to be merely an expression of opinion.  Many people believe that our Constitution should be altered to limit hate speech due to its potentially detrimental effects on the victims; however as of right now, any citizen has the right to express their hate as long as it doesn’t put others in danger.

One of the most recent cases involving hate speech is Phelps vs. Snyder, when Westboro Baptist Church protested at the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who had died in Iraq. The church strongly believes that God punishes the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, especially within the military, so they often protest at military funerals with signs with phrases like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Fags.”  Matthew’s father, Albert Snyder, testified against the church with the claim that he is unable to separate the thoughts of his son’s death with the thoughts of the hateful protest, often getting physically ill just thinking about it.  After much consideration, the Supreme Court sided with the church on the premise that their protest is a matter of public concern expressed on public property, and therefore protected by the First Amendment.  Similarly, the members of the church have the right to communicate their ideas just as we all do.  

Although this is technically correct, many people still regard their protests as an act of lawlessness, and think the Westboro Baptist Church and its members should have taken responsibility for the repercussions on the Snyder family.  I think the Constitution should put some type of limitation on hate speech. Clearly not all of it can be restricted, as it would infringe on our citizens’ rights to expression, but I do believe some structure should be put in place. For example, with Albert Snyder and his physical disturbance caused by the protests.  Although legal, these assertions have caused pain for many people, and should therefore be outlawed under the First Amendment.


Works Cited:


Liptak, Adam. “Funeral Picketing Is Free Speech, Court Rules”. Nytimes.com. N. p., 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.


Volokh, Eugene. “No, There’S No “Hate Speech” Exception To The First Amendment”. Washington Post. N. p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.


Hate Speech covered by the First Amendment?

When considering the topic of Hate Speech one must look to the Supreme Court.  They have dealt with issues of Hate Speech both directly and indirectly. From Miller v. California where Obscenity was defined based on the community standards.   To the Beauharnais v. Illinois,  where Joseph Beauharnais expressed his views on the, “harassment and invasion of white people” his leaflets were deemed libel, this is one of the limits of the First Amendment.  Hate Speech has even been examined with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio.  The court said that Ohio’s criminal syndicalism law violated the right to free speech.  These court cases asked the question is there a difference between Hate Speech and Free Speech, and should crimes be prosecuted/punished differently?  In other words should the motivation of a crime be examined to  determine the punishment.

Hate Speech itself is not covered directly under the First Amendment.  Free speech is the right for someone to express themselves.  However, there are still limits that must be considered like Slander/ Libel, Clear and present danger, fighting words, and obscenity.  The First Amendment is no longer protecting you.  Hate Speech is indirectly protected under the First Amendment, until it crosses one of the limits.  The first Amendment gives of great freedom, but Hate Speech a price.


Work Cited:

“R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/90-7675. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Miller v. California.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-73. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Beauharnais v. Illinois.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/343us250. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Brandenburg v. Ohio.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

Freedom of Speech: Crash Course Government and Politics #25. By Raoul Meyer. Prod. Stan Muller. Perf. Craig Benzine. YouTube. N.p., 31 July 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2017

Hate Speech or Free Speech?


hate speech

According to the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech”. For years now, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not “hate speech” is protected under the First Amendment. That is the issue at hand. Now, hate speech is not officially recognized to have any fixed legal meaning under U.S. law. However, many people recognize hate speech as speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.   

Many U.S. Commentators claim that there is a “hate speech” exception in the First Amendment. But American law professor Eugene Volokh has brought to many people’s attention that these exceptions to the First Amendment do not apply to hate speech. However, they do apply to “fighting words”. Words that are used to place the target of the words in direct danger or harm are not protected by the First Amendment. For example, one may condemn the Klu Klux Klans ideals and views, but unless they act on their ideals, legally they are protected by the First Amendment.  If the Klu Klux Klan did act upon their ideals/say they are going to act upon them, then they would be considered fighting words. Long ago, in the court case  of Schenck v. U.S., the supreme court decided that freedom of speech or the freedom of press could be limited if the words created a “clear a present danger”. This rule seems to still be widely used today pertaining freedom of speech.

Although I think some of the things people believe/think are horrible and unfair, technically they are allowed to express these ideals that they have. Even if you d0 not  agree with another’s ideals, we are indeed a free society. Being a free society means everyone has the right to express their ideals no matter how horrible they may seem to you. As long as they do not act upon their ideals in a threatening way, they are protected under the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment.