Free Speech For All

Chapter 10 of Lewis Freedom for the Thought That We Hate, discusses hate speech and I found it alarming that The United States differs from all other Western societies in its legal treatment of hate speech. In eleven countries it is crime to deny the Holocaust, yet in America we have free expression and the First Amendment protecting Nazis and the right to deny the fact of the Holocaust as well as other hate related speech. The only time hate speech can be prosecuted is if it is libelous or has intent to harm, in which case that would turn into a hate crime and it could be brought to court. The First Amendment protects all speech and unfortunately that means it protects the rights of Nazis to march down the streets of Charlottesville as well as the counter protestors. The First Amendment governs the right to express an opinion or idea without fear of government retaliation or censorship. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” it reads, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

While many people reject the concept that all speech is of merit, I think it is important to keep the integrity of speech. I do not support speech that is deliberately hateful and harmful to others, but everyone deserves a platform to share their opinions, whether I agree with it or not. An example of this is the Boston Free Speech rally that occurred this past August where Nazis and bigots were completely outnumbered by counter protestors. If there had not been a platform, there would have not been a chance to show that love conquers hate. If one group was able to speak and the other was not able to, it would just not be equal. Everyone deserves an opportunity.

There are certain speech acts that are not permitted by the law ― libel, defamation, true threats and incitement, to name a few ― but hate speech is not among them. While free speech has been a controversial topic, I think that it is more important and discussed than ever with Donald Trump as president and his administration. Coming into this class I had a preconceived notion that hate speech was covered under the First Amendment and after learning more in depth about what is covered I think that it would not be useful to include hate speech because that leads to censorship.

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