06
Feb
10

Just for the Record

Hate speechis free speech. Numerous people on campus have, over the last few weeks, declared precisely the opposite. They are wrong. A small number of people have also stated that the Supreme Court has ruled that “hate speech” does not in fact count as free speech. This is also wrong. Congress has recently extended the definition of hate crimes — a totally different category (though in the minds of many of our civic-deprived campus activists, one suspects that the distinction between “speech” and “crime” is erased) — to include crimes based on the victim’s sexual orientation, but that is basically the extent of their recent involvement in questions of “hate.”

The ACLU, moreover, makes the crucial point (though one so obvious that they shouldn’t even have had to explain it) that, yes, even swastikas count as free speech:

Symbols of hate are constitutionally protected if they’re worn or displayed before a general audience in a public place…

The Supreme Court has ruled that symbolic expression, whether swastikas, burning crosses or, for that matter, peace signs, is protected by the First Amendment because it’s “closely akin to ‘pure speech.'” That phrase comes from a landmark 1969 decision in which the Court held that public school students could wear black armbands in school to protest the Vietnam War. And in another landmark ruling, in 1989, the Court upheld the right of an individual to burn the American flag in public as a symbolic expression of disagreement with government policies.

So the next time you hear someone on campus tell you that “the Supreme Court has ruled that hate speech is not protected under free speech laws,” you can rest assured that they’re either ignorant or simply lying outright in a clumsy attempt to deceive.

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