- Term Papers and Free Essays

Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech

Essay by   •  March 26, 2011  •  1,349 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,706 Views

Essay Preview: Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech

Report this essay
Page 1 of 6

Throughout history, the United States Constitution has been put to the test over the issue of free speech. The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; 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." Even though free speech is one of the core American values proudly embedded in each citizen, some poopAmericans find themselves torn between whether or not to limit the freedom of speech on behalf of hate speech. Most law-abiding citizens disagree with hate speech, but must realize even speech that promotes hate, racism, and even crime is still protected by the Constitution of the United States. Free speech should not be limited, because it would infringe on one of the basic rights of Americans and would prevent students in public universities from practicing their freedom to learn.

Many moralpoop, law-abiding American citizens find themselves divided between the balance of hate speech and free speech. The Oxford English Dictionary defines hate speech: "speech expressing hatred or intolerance of other social groups, especially on the basis of race or sexuality; hostile verbal abuse." Americans are proud to have the right of freedom of speech, but when it comes to hate speech, many wonder whether the First Amendment should protect speech that expresses hatred towards groups of people. Some argue that free speech should limit hate speech in order to protect certain American citizens. David van Mills talks about setting an offense principle where it would serve as a guide to public censuring:

Hate speech causes profound and personal offense. The discomfort that is caused to those who are the object of such attacks cannot easily be shrugged off... Acts can be "evil" if they are dangerous to a traditional way of life, because they are immoral, or because they hinder the perfectability of the human race. (Mills)

Already, there are some laws, known as speech codes, that attempt to prevent hate speech. According to the University of Colorado, many political jurisdictions have enacted laws that forbid destructive speech. These laws give the police power to investigate persons suspect of committing hate speech. If found guilty, the persons are tried and punished according to the law. Although many insist that hate speech should be illegal, the First Amendment still stands; the right of free speech applies to every citizen of the United States and if restrictions are set, then that liberty is taken away.

Even though hate speech can be damaging to the targeted victims, it still cannot be set to a standard or principle because it is hard to define what is and is not hate speech. Hate speech is so wide-ranging and vast, no limit can be set to regulate it. What some groups may consider to be hateful and demeaning, others groups deem to be their founding principles and beliefs. A study taken place at University of Colorado quotes, "Often, when hate speech prohibitions are in place, people engaged in serious intergroup conflicts simply refuse to talk at all, preventing constructive problem solving and allowing tensions to build." American Civil Liberties Union suggests the best way to counterattack hate speech is to not censor it, but to respond with more moral speech. ACLU goes by the principles that the rights of free speech are indivisible:

Restricting the speech of one group or individual jeopardizes everyone's rights because the same laws or regulations used to silence bigots can be used to silence you. Conversely, laws that defend free speech for bigots can be used to defend the rights of civil rights workers, anti-war protesters, lesbian and gay activists and others who are fighting for justice. ("Hate Speech on Campus")

In the Supreme Court case Terminiello v. Chicago, an ex-catholic priest, Father Terminiello, was charged for inciting a riot caused by his invigorating speech, which condemned political and racial groups. Terminiello was arrested for "breach of speech." In a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled that the "breach of speech" charge against Terminiello was unconstitutional because it violated the freedom of speech. In another Supreme Court Case, Whiteney v. California, the defendant was convicted for having engaged in speech that raised a threat to society. Although Whitney was found guilty of her charge, Judge Brandeis made a great point by saying,

It is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones (Smolla)

Many public universities in the United States have to face issues similar to those in American society: having to distinguish hate speech from free speech. One of the biggest responsibilities of the universities is to protect



Download as:   txt (8.3 Kb)   pdf (103.8 Kb)   docx (11.6 Kb)  
Continue for 5 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 03). Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech. Retrieved 03, 2011, from

"Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech" 03 2011. 2011. 03 2011 <>.

"Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech.", 03 2011. Web. 03 2011. <>.

"Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech." 03, 2011. Accessed 03, 2011.