What Is “Hate Speech” and Is It Legal?

What Is

(RepublicanDaily.org) – The United States of America is dealing with several social crises, including:

  • The COVID-19 outbreak which has fundamentally changed the way people interact with one another.
  • The deep divide between Conservative and Liberal political ideology.
  • The rioting, violence and armed insurrection brought about by groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM).

With all the disruptions going on, it may be a good time to look back at the country’s history and at how the First Amendment’s protection of Freedom of Speech works with “hate speech.”

Nearly Inviolable

During World War I, there were two socialists who were arrested, tried, and convicted for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. They tried to persuade men to disobey any draft orders they received. Their convictions were upheld, but it did allow the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to establish the doctrine of “clear and present danger” as written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Justice Holmes further opined that the leaflets they were distributing were akin to someone falsely yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater.

SCOTUS later refined, when a leader of the Ku Klux Klan was convicted under Ohio law, that advocating things like crime, violence, or terrorism in order to establish political reform is a criminal act. The court ruled this was indeed a violation of his First Amendment rights and declared two-part reasoning that would permit the State to infringe on them.

The first thing that must be proven is that it was “directed at inciting or producing imminent [emphasis added] lawless action,” with the second being that it’s “likely to incite or produce such an action.” Here, they made a very pointed description of how extreme things must be to quash the protections.

During Personal Tragedies

A group by the name of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) out of Topeka, Kansas, has become infamously known for staging protests at the funerals of those who served in the United States military. It’s hard to imagine anything more hurtful to grieving families than chants and signs thanking God for all the dead soldiers and other tripe like it. The family sued and won, leading to an appeals process that ended up at SCOTUS after the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the decision.

The court held in an 8-1 decision that the First Amendment shielded WBC from financial liability even for inflicting that kind of pain upon the family with malice aforethought. The Fourth Circuit Court had noted the speech was protected “… notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words,” which the High Court validated with its ruling.

The mainstream media seems to have lost track of the First Amendment as they’re often caught vilifying anybody who speaks against their Agenda as an intolerable racist. Surely, if the above examples are protected speech, then certainly pointing out that looting stores and burning buildings are not examples of peaceful protest is as well.

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