POLL: Should the First Amendment Protect Hate Speech?
The shooter in Sunday's Sikh Temple slayings was connected to the white-supremacy music scene. Does that sort of expression deserve First Amendment protection?
Last Sunday’s tragic shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek turned another spotlight on “hate speech” when the shooter, Wade Michael Page, was connected to the white-supremacy music scene, also known as “hatecore.”
Earlier this summer, a different version of hate speech came to southeast Wisconsin when members of the tiny but vocal Westboro Baptist Church picketed in front of churches in Brookfield and Oak Creek. They carried signs with phrases such as “God Hates Fags” and “Your Pastors are Whores.”
While one seemed at least loosely connected to a grisly mass murder and the other resulted in an uneventful protest, both forms of expression are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says:
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.
Interpretations of and debate over that simple, powerful statement have continued for more than 200 years. From obscenity to libel to direct threats, government continually redefines what is exactly free speech. Patch blogger Lyle Ruble analyzes the matter in his most recent post, finally deciding that hate speech must be tolerated to protect other forms of expression. The Supreme Court recently backed the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests at military funerals.
Do you agree that hate speech deserves First Amendment protection? Vote in our poll and join the discussion in our Comments section.