The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Hate Speech Should Not Be Protected Under Freedom of Speech

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/9/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 562 times Debate No: 77458
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (9)
Votes (1)




Hi! I am personally for the freedom of speech protecting hate speech, but as I did a parliamentary debate on this topic, I wanted to try my case against someone. Moreover, I am running a specific plan that I would like to test its efficacy. This is my first real debate on this site, so forgive me for basic errors I make.

Format should go like this
Round 1- prop initiates and lays out definitions, opp accepts and provides any additional clarifications
Round 2- Pro arguments, Con-ref and arguments
Round 3- Pro ref and conclusion, con- conclusion

Hate Speech- speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits. (American Bar Association)
Freedom of Speech- the right to express facts and opinions subject only to reasonable limitations... guaranteed by the 1st and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and similar provisions of some state constitutions. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Protect- To ensure the ability to speak in manner discussed in debate (hate speech) without legal repercussions.



I accept the challenge. I will be arguing that freedom of speech does in fact cover hate speech. I await your response.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you very much for accepting! I anticipate having to debate this often throughout my debate years, and I want to hone both sides of this. Right now the basis and evidence for the case comes off my team's prop/opp (though I did the majority of the research).

First, I agree with user jascha in the comments. With your consent, lets modify the definition of hate speech to speech that insults or offends groups..., instead of threatens, because that is already pretty much not protected. Secondly, to clarify, we are arguing whether or not hate speech SHOULD be protected, because as of now it most certainly is. Thus, the argument "its protected right now" has no bearing on the debate.

Now to my plan:
Criminalizing hate speech (ie making offenders pay fine, etc.) would be way too impractical for our overworked justice system, hard to prove/disprove, and open to abuse. Thus the plan I will be proposing is to classify hate speech as fighting words under the Fighting Words Doctrine. Specifically, the doctrine, set in US Supreme Court Case Chaplinsky v. The State of New Hampshire ruled that two types of speech were NOT PROTECTED under the first amendment: words that by their very utterance inflict injury, and speech that incites an immediate breach of the peace. Thus, the prop would not protect hate speech by classifying them as "words that by their very utterance inflict injury" (which I will prove). So, if someone was using hate speech, and it led to an altercation, they could not claim self-defense. In other words, hate speech would no longer be protected in the court of law.

Alternatively, if the Fighting Words Doctrine does not work, Group Libel Laws have also been ruled constitution by the Supreme Court (including a hate speech case Beauharnais v. Illinois (1952)), though I will not go into the details unless necessitated by the debate.

First Point: Hate Speech Causes Societal and Personal Harm and Violence
Even though hate speech is not addressed to individuals, it ends up harming individuals by creating a atmosphere that leads to a multitude of physical and psychological injuries, the injury part of "words that by their very utterance inflict injury" clause in the Fighting Words Doctrine.
Here's some studies that prove it (coming straight of my team's prop/opp chart):
1) According to research completed by professors Kitano and Allport, the effects of hate speech include displaced aggression, avoidance, retreat, withdrawal, alcoholism, and suicide. The special report of the Attorney General of California [1988] demonstrates that epithets and harassment "often cause deep emotional scarring and bring feelings of intimidation and fear that pervade every aspect of a victim's life."
Source: Center for First Amendment Studies, Craig R. Smith, California State University Long Beach
2) Hate speech is a pervasive problem suffered particularly by ethnic and sexual minorities. It can undermine self esteem, cause isolation, and result in violence. Words can be damaging and the damage can be heightened by emotion and other contextual factors.[2] Unfortunately, hate crimes are the on rise. According to FBI figures released on November 22, 2004, hate crimes rose from 7,462 in 2002 to 7,489 in 2003. Half of these crimes targeted racial groups; 2,548 against Blacks, 830 against whites, 231 against Asians. Religious intolerance was the cause of 1,343 crimes, and of these, 927 targeted Jews. Attacks based on sexual orientation amounted to 1,239 cases.
Source: Center for First Amendment Studies, Craig R. Smith, California State University Long Beach

To sum up the point, hate speech leads to harming specific individuals even though it is not addressed to them specifically per say. Additionally this appears to leading the rise in hate crimes as well, because it increasing destabilizes not only the victims, but the environment that shields minorities from hate. This is also interesting to note, because incitement to imminent lawless action is also not protected, another way hate speech shouldn't be protected.

Point 2: Human Rights vs. Civil Rights.
Ok here I go a little macro. Human right are more fundamental than civil rights by their very nature. Thus it would lead to the conclusion that if a human right was in direct violation of a civil right, the civil right would be overruled. Thus, in this point I argue that based off the Human Rights put forth by the United Nations, hate speech should not be protected, because it directly violates human rights.
1) The UN"s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes that all people have the right to freedom of expression before stating: "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law." The United States ratified this covenant.
2) Additionally, Hate Speech can be intrepid to violate some of the human rights put forth in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically it violates articles 3 and 5. Article 3 is that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Hate speech violates the security of a person (as proven in point 1). Article 5 stipulates that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Hate speech is degrading and inhumane treatment of an entire population, and thus is definitely a violation of Article 5. Source: United Nations

To sum up, the human rights trump civil rights, and peoples right to be protected from hate speech gets trumps the civil right of hate speech.

The government of the United States has no place protecting speech that harms its citizens, even that harm manifests indirectly, nor should it protect speech that flaunts others undeniable human rights.


"If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." Texas v. Johnson, 1989.

I do not care about what someone else thinks or how hurt they are by what I say. If you want to limit my speech, I will be waiting with my 2nd Amendment strapped to my side.

By your definition, and I do agree of altering it, you want any insulting language to be banned. I fear that with this argument, you will likely end up breaking my record of never swearing on

This is plainly absurd. Hate speech is burning a cross in front of a black family. This actually happened, and it was banned because a burning cross is a sign of the KKK, which is a very hateful group. However, my ability to call someone the "n" word for example, should not be taken away. I want to speak freely and that is it.

One flaw I find in your argument is that hateful speech is subjective. One may find it hateful, the other may not. Under this stupid law that you want to make, people could abuse the system and just categorize everything as hateful, and the court would have to agree. You cannot say what might hurt others feelings, because people nowadays are insulted by everything!

Those hate crimes you mentioned were very severe. A hate crime is a normal crime, such as assault, rape, or murder, but it was initialized due to race or cultural differences.

I agree that threats should not be protected, and they already aren't. If you are found saying severe threats, you will be fined or sent to prison.

However, I should and will have the right to insult others based on whatever I please. The great thing about freedom of speech is being able to say what you want without having to care about other people. If we were to make hate speech illegal, we would have to get 10x the police force, and we could cut all taxes because the fines would bring in so much revenue.

I'm sorry if I am a little forward, just that I am a strong believer in the Constitution and it really aggravates me when people try to argue that we do not need these rights.
Debate Round No. 2


No problem at all! That's exactly why I went to to test my argument-so I can get someone truly passionate on the issue. (I would appreciate if you don't curse though, remember I am playing the devil's advocate :)

Now to answer the main ideas you expressed in your argument.

First to your example of the KKK burning a cross. This act was meant as intimidation (and maybe even incitement to imminent lawless action), so it is hate crime, not hate speech. Again, your ability to call someone the "n" word may/may not be protected under the current interpretations of the Constitution as established in the Fighting Words Doctrine, regardless of this debate.

You also said a bunch of things about making it illegal and needing 10x the police force, but that suggests you misunderstand my plan (I apologize if I was not clear about the distinction). Fighting Words Doctrine means if your hate speech leads to an altercation, you can not claim self-defense via freedom of speech. If a man whose race/sexual orientation/ethnicity was being insulted by you initiated a fight with you, if you fought you would not be employing self-defense in the eyes of the law, because your actions initiated the confrontation. However it DOES NOT MEAN, as you say, that you can just get thrown in jail for your hateful words. Imagine it like alcohol. We are not saying you can't drink alcohol, but if you run over someone while drunk driving, you aren't absolved from the crime because you were drunk. We are not banning hate speech, just no longer protecting it in the eyes of the court. You are allowed to say whatever racist things you want, but the courts of the US are not going to protect you from the repercussions of those actions.

Then you went on to talk about hate speech subjectivity. The times when the Fighting Words Doctrine would be used is if a violent altercation went to court. There it would be in front of a jury, who would decide whether or not the speech actually qualified as hate speech. And you are right, what is and isn't hate speech does change with society (ie, 200 years ago, the "n" word was pretty commonplace and accepted), but laws are made by society (that's one of the reasons we have a jury). In short, a jury will decide what is and isn't hate speech on a case by case basis taking into consideration the overall situation, etc.

You opened with a quote that "the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." But as I proved in my first argument, hate speech goes beyond offensive and disagreeable- it inflicts personal and societal psychological and physical harm.

Finally, you keep saying that you have the right to insult others based on whatever you please. This proves you have a misconception what Freedom of Speech really is. The fact is, you don' have the right to insult others. You don't have it if the US goes with my proposal, you don't have it in the status quo. Numerous Supreme Court cases have addressed what qualifies as obscene language (the most recent being Miller v. California), but in all of the them calling someone the n-word is not protected. Furthermore, certain degrees of obsceneties when directed at a person are already considered Fighting Words under the current doctrine, not the expanded one I propose. The right we are arguing for is the right to insult groups of people, not individuals.

To sum up, my opponent thus far completely ignored my statistics proving that 1) Hate speech EVEN IF NOT DIRECTED AT AN INDIVIDUAL (which at that point would be considered obscenity/threatening), still causes the individuals in the race/gender/sexual orientation pyschological distress which can lead to dangerous and self-harming behaviors, and 2) leads to a society where there is an increase in physical violence against the subjects of hate speech. Speech that harms others is not protected, and so hate speech likewise should not be protected. He has also completely dropped my point about how the human rights of the victims outweigh the civil right of perpetrators. Additionally, I have addressed everything I possibly could (if he makes new arguments in the third round I can't rebut)

Finally one last thought. My opponent repeated said he or she does not care about what if others are hurt by their speech. So why should courts of the United States of American care if they are hurt as a direct cause of their speech? Vote Pro.

(One final thank you to my opponent. Regardless of how this debate goes, it was an honor debating you, and you have helped me strengthen my case for the future.)


If you have a verbal confrontation, and it turns into a physical one, the aggressor can be indited for aggravated assault.

(Don't worry, I never curse at people during debates)

Freedom of speech always has to be top priority. It should never be that in a public setting you have to think of what to say. If you are physically attacked for what you say, that impedes on your right to free speech, and also it is classified as assault, and you can press charges.

However, any word, no matter the severity should be protected. That does not mean, in any way, that you should use it, but there should never be a time when you can be fined or jailed for what you say.

Psychological stress or harm does not matter to me.

Again, it should never be considered breaking the law if you say something to someone, no matter the severity.

There are rules in courts and public hearings, that you cannot verbally harass someone. Harassment is, of course, something you can be reprimanded on by the justice system. Continuously insulting someone is harassment, unless you are doing it out of verbal defense.

"Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the right of free speech is broad and guaranteed to all. This Amendment prohibits the federal government from abridging this right, and the U.S. Supreme Court in modern times has interpreted the First Amendment as also limiting the ability of state and local governments to regulate speech expression."[1]

First, certain kinds of contents has been ruled to have either more limited protection, or in some cases, no protection at all. Among unprotected categories of speech are pornography (obscenity), child pornography, "fighting words," and incitement to imminent violent action, such as threats to kill an individual.

"Commercial speech and speech that constitutes libel or slander are provided with a lesser level of protection. Commercial speech can be regulated to make sure that it is not misleading or fraudulent, and defamation, while it can"t be prohibited outright, can subject a speaker or author to a lawsuit for damages. "Indecent" speech may face particular restrictions when minors are exposed to it, and this has resulted in the regulation of indecent expression in broadcasting."

I agree that it is not very good to slander someone and demean them, but you should be able to. If we cannot express our grievances with anger, then what good is it?

Need I remind you that the nations with the most restrictions on Freedom of Speech are authoritative nations, mostly in the Middle East. Anything said against the Muslim authority is justifiable by flogging, imprisonment, or death.

This is America, not Iran. We cannot lose this basic Constitutional right that millions died protecting.
Debate Round No. 3
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by PericIes 1 year ago
(Voting here to get my privileges back)

Agreed with before the debate: Con
Agreed with after the debate: Con
Conduct: Tied
Spelling and grammar: Tied
Convincing arguments: Con
Source reliability: Tied

Who I agreed with before and after the debate does not need to be explained because I am judging the debate objectively, and my opinion does not affect how well the participants debated. Both debaters seemed equally cordial and civil. Con mentioned considering swearing, but it is assumed that this was for emphatic purposes, and so does not affect his level of politeness. Aside from one or two typos/mistakes, the participants' grammar and spelling were equally fine. Both participants argued quite well, but, probably inherent in the position that he was taking, pro's arguments always depended on stretching established principles, rather than following them. For example, one of the main things that pro's argument depended upon was that hate speech caused direct harm. Con demolished this argument by pointing out that anyone can call anything hate speech, and even mean it, and it can be by extension assumed that all speech can be made illegal if hate speech is. Pro's attempts at rebuttal on this point were inadequate, mainly stating that juries would determine on a case by case basis. This is inadequate because each jury would set a precedent, often conflicting with other precedents; in short, the system would not work, and so Pro's rebuttal is inadequate. Source reliability is tied. Pro actually cited quite excellent statistics and other things, but never actually posted any of the sources. Con only posted one source, but that source was a forum-type website. If Pro had actually posted his sources, he would've gotten the point. If Con had posted a better source, he would have gotten the point.
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
>Reported vote: Pericles// Mod action: Removed<

3 points to Con (Arguments). Reasons for voting decision: Both debated well, but Con won it with the subjectivity argument. I don't see an effective counter made for it, and it is a strong point.

[*Reason for removal*] (1) It is not sufficient to point to a single argument made by one side to afford argument points. The RFD must address at least some of the arguments given by both sides, and this ignores all of the arguments made by Pro.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
Hate is hate...No protection..No freedom of anything will make a difference..Hate is for/against your type of life..And you will protect it..It is very simple.
Posted by bballcrook21 1 year ago
Oh no, I am referring to both. Under natural law, all speech is allowed, threatening or not. We have laws that go against physical threats such as death threats. Those should not be protected because you are explicitly stating that you will bring physical harm to the individual. The Pro is stating that you should not be able to offend or insult anyone based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits. I find this to be extremely outlandish. He is explicity stating that hate speech should not be allowed, and then defines hate speech, which according to his definition encompasses a wide array of speech. You are not allowed to insult people anymore? Freedom of speech is being able to say what you want without having to care about someone else's feelings getting hurt. This is absurd. If this kind of speech system was implemented into the United States I would leave immediately.
Posted by jascha 1 year ago

There is the danger of confusing the Constitution with natural or moral law. It is never a valid argument to say, "Hate speech must be protected speech because the Constitution says so." A better argument would be, "Hate speech must be protected because the natural origins of freedom of speech encompass many things, including hate speech."

Nowhere did bballcrook21 mention the Constitution. He is referring to the natural idea of freedom of speech, not the Constitutional idea.
Posted by bballcrook21 1 year ago
This should be easy. I have 17 books on law and I've read every single one of them.
Posted by Rami 1 year ago
Con, watch out. Pro's arguing that the hate speech should be illegal. You wrote it is covered by the 1st amendment, or that it is legal. See the difference? I hope this helps.
Posted by jascha 1 year ago
And it looks like I was about one minute late. Well, at least I gave Pro some good arguments.
Posted by jascha 1 year ago
I was going to accept until I saw the definition of hate speech, which includes threatening. This seems too close to the idea of assault, which must not be protected. Take out "threatens" and include the terms "insults" and "offends" in this category and you would have a good debate with valid arguments on both sides. No offense, of course, just my feedback on things.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by PericIes 1 year ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: In comments