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Should Hate Groups Be Allowed Free Speech?

927 words - 4 pages

From the century-old Ku Klux Klan to the widely publicized Westboro Baptist Church, hate groups have always been prevalent in America. They have been around since humans have had the ability to share and act upon common hatred towards others. Why do they still exist today even after all the progress our society has made fighting against racism and intolerance? The answer lies in the First Amendment right to free speech. Our democratic society allows all citizens the freedom to express any and all opinions, no matter how offensive and hurtful. This leads many to question whether these hate groups should be allowed the right to free speech. I believe that hate groups should be allowed free speech because all Americans have the right of free speech, it is not discriminatory unless it incites violence, and hate can be prevented through education rather than criminalization.
Hate groups are known to protest against otherwise agreeable opinions through rallies and speeches. The Westboro Baptist Church is known for picketing funerals, however they have never physically assaulted the people they hate, even when argued with by opposing bystanders. What they do may seem immoral, but it is not a crime to express an opinion. Their opinions and those of other hate groups are protected by the First Amendment which “should protect such expressions when they…do not present danger of an immediate breach of peace” (Attias). This was established in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) in which the Brandenburg test was developed to measure the intent, imminence, and likelihood of hate speech to instigate violence. Another issue is the difference between prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is an intolerant opinion while discrimination is treating someone differently because of superficial characteristics, such as gender or race. For example, thinking poorly of minorities like Mexicans is prejudice, but denying a Mexican candidate of a position in a workplace based on their race is discrimination. While the former is seen as wrong, only the latter is unlawful because it denies the person of an equal opportunity. Prejudice and discrimination are “two different things—unless the words explicitly incite unlawful discrimination” (Tatchell). That is, prejudice can be discriminatory if it instigates violence. These words then encourage listeners to participate in activities that endanger others, such as physical assault or even murder. Only then should hate groups be criminalized. However, criminalization “is a means not of tackling bigotry but of rebranding certain…ideas or arguments as immoral” (Malik). In this way, hate groups may become criminals, but such a sentence will not change their hateful opinions. Instead, education can be given to spread awareness of tolerance. For example, the Week of Respect and education about bullying “seek to prevent hatred in the first place, whereas...

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