Freedom of Speech and Freedom from Fear
The First Amendment to the US Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." The amendment was designed to allow for citizens to debate public issues and that the debate be "uninhibited, robust and wide open." Many people believe in the right to free speech and expression, but disagree on the inclusion of certain categories such as pornography, hate speech, solicitation, unpatriotic speech or actions and genres of music deemed violent or inflammatory. Hate speech in particular is highly controversial, since it is protected by the amendment, but decried by many members of the public as reprehensible. Is the high cost of freedom being paid by the victims of the hate speech?
Some say that hate speech should be exempt from the First Amendment since it could be interpreted as obscenity, incitement to violence or threat of violence. All three of those types of speech are considered unprotected speech and are prohibited. While the intention of the exemption would be to protect the group of people affected by the hate speech, the result would be the sacrifice of freedom to avoid offense. The reality is that prohibiting the speech does not change the feelings or intentions of the groups who would express the hate speech. When the contempt is out in the open, individuals can see the issue. There exists the opportunity to counter the viewpoints, possibly change them, but certainly organize against the forces of intolerance and narrow mindedness.
While the hateful speech is protected, the victims of the hate speech must suffer the effects. Words can perpetuate feelings of inferiority at home, in school, at work, and in social settings. Hateful messages are genuine and personal to the victims. In her article in the Miami Law Review, Professor Patricia Williams called hate messages "spirit murder." A special report of the Attorney General of California  demonstrates that...