Corey Brettschneider on Hate Speech

November 25, 2012

A Ku Klux Klan rally and counter-protest in Athens, Alabama.
CREDIT: Gregory.Skibinski

How should states deal with hate speech? In the U.S., the prevailing attitude is that hate speech should be protected. Any effort to ban even the most vile speech is seen as a deep affront to liberty. In other liberal democracies, hate speech is more restricted. Allowing unconstrained hate speech is seen as a failure to respect the groups it target.

Corey Brettschneider, a professor of political science at Brown University, has a new take on these questions. The state shouldn't ban hate speech, he says, but that doesn't mean it should be silent on it either. He believes that the state should speak out against hate speech.

Take the Westboro Baptist Church, an American group that protests military funerals, thinking they're a sign of God's punishment of gay rights. Brettschneider would let the church's protests happen but revoke its status as a nonprofit organization. That, he thinks, would help express the state's long-term interest in liberal-democratic values.

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