Freedom of Speech is something that differentiates the United States from other Countries. However for the past decades there has been a thin line between the Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech.
A specific case in Skokie, Illinois shows how this line was crossed and demonstrates our countries failure to act in giving out punishment. In 1977, the National Socialist Party wanted to march through the town of Skokie, Illinois, wearing Swastikas and rally against the Jewish community. The NSP wanted to do this fully knowing that 1 in 6 residents in Skokie were holocaust survivors. Attorneys from Skokie tried to argue that wearing swastikas was essentially a physical attack and that this kind of action could not be allowed. The Supreme Court responded by saying that the use of the swastika is a “symbolic form of free speech.” This is where the line needs to be drawn.
A more recent incident , that Jeremy Waldron touches on in Should Hate Speech Be Outlawed? is the story of a Muslim man who is walking with his two children and sees a sign that says “Muslims and 9/11. Don’t Serve them. Don’t Speak to Them.” Waldron describes ” loosely as hate speech, putting them in the same category as racist graffiti, burning crosses, and earlier generations of signage that sought to drive Jews out of fashionable areas in Florida with postings like ‘ Jews and dogs prohibited” If this kind of profanity is considered hate speech then how is parading around a town with swastikas on your clothing allowed?
I truly believe that there needs to be federal Hate Speech laws. These kind of actions can not continue to fall under Freedom of Speech laws when specific groups of people are being hurt. Timothy Garton Ash agrees in “Free Speech Debate” “Even the most outspoken advocates of free speech recognize that there should be limits to how far we can allow words and images to incite to violence.” There needs to be a precedent set by the federal government clearly defining the terms of free speech vs. hate speech. With new Federal Hate Speech laws our country will still be able to freely say what we believe without inciting violence to a specific group of people.