As of this writing, I find that there are 29 countries that have enacted laws that prohibit hate speech. These laws vary somewhat country to country but prohibt their citizens, in general, from using insults of any kind against another group based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
I said, “in general” because of course there are some countries that do not police speech based on religion, gender or sexual orientation. For instance, Irelands Constitution currently prohibits blasphemy. Yes, you may actually receive a prison sentence in Ireland for this offense.
Should the U.S. also have a hate speech law? I peronally believe it would be very dicey and the law would have to be very carefully crafted to not come in conflict with the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech.
There are limits of course to the First Amendment guarantee, but those limits include inciting to violence, child pornography, even deliberate false statements of fact that may cause harm to another person or persons.
Can a personal opinion be hate speech? To many it seems to be the case. Consider hate groups and their constant diatribe against minorities and Jews. To me, these people are vile but do they have a right to say and think what they want?
Yes, they do as long as they do not incite their followers to violence against any of these groups. Once that line is crossed, then federal and state laws may take direct action against them.
We don’t have to like or approve of what anyone says, but they have the right to their view in this country until they venture into direct conflict with the law.
As people have a right to their bigotry, we also have the same right to speak out against them. And bigotry is not limited to a particular race or religion. Consider Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Isalm, who regularly rants to his congreation, or anyone else willing to listen, that “White people deserve to die…” and that Jews are satanic and that they caused the Holocaust? He also said that“Hilter was a great man”.In my mind, the only difference between Farrakhan and the KKK is his race.
How about a Washington, D.C city councilman that just recently claimed that the bad weather(snow)they were having is caused by the Jews? Yes, he did later apologize for that statement but what was it that caused him to make such and outrageous comment to beging with?
Would anyone reading this right now claim that either of these examples be categorized as hate speech? Should these two, or anyone else, be prosecuted because they are bigots or anti-semites? Would saying, “I hate homosexuals” be hate speech or just an ignorant bigoted opinion?
In some countries, the answer to these questions would be yes.
Let’s not even attempt to go down that very perilous road. Sometimes, you get what you wish for and it can come back and bite you.