Should Hate Speech Be Protected By the First Amendment?

The events that occurred in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017 thrust the discussion of hate speech and the Constitution back into the national conversation. While the violence and intentions of the white nationalist/supremacist groups has been widely condemned across the political spectrum, there have been active voices (including the ACLU) who have stood by the principle of free speech, even when that speech itself is hateful in nature.

In a society that consistently invokes First Amendment rights, the question remains: should hate speech be amongst those forms of speech entitled to constitutional protection?

In this deliberation, students will have the opportunity to explore recent court cases and situations in the US that have brought this topic to the forefront of American political debate. Students will explore the context for these court decisions, assess the impact of those decision on subsequent instances of hate speech, and attempt to determine where they believe the line should be drawn between unprotected and protected speech when that speech is hateful in nature.

Background Videos

Hateful Speech and First Amendment Protections (1:21) 
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General William Yeomans talked about hateful speech and its protections under Federal law.

“Not the Necessary Byproduct of Freedom of Expression” (1:30)
Attorney and Viral Hate coauthor Christopher Wolf discusses the harmful impact of online hate speech

Background Articles

Debating Hate Speech- American Bar Association

From cross burning to funeral protests, hate speech enjoys broad protection- USA Today

Background Questions

Background Article Questions

Background Video Questions