Freedom of Speech or Hate Crime?


I’m torn on this one. I support freedom of speech, but I also support gay rights and the right of anybody to be free from harrassment.

Thoughts? Opinions?

I’m the resident “homophobe” and I say, if an individual was actually targeted in this flier, whether with a picture of him, his name, or an unmistakable description,
it was a “hate crime”. One can oppose or support gay rights all day long, but you can’t target individuals for harassment.

What did the flyers actually say? I don’t see from your link.


Not much more in the original story.

Sigh So far they’re not releasing the exact language of the flyer, but the link does specify that it contains the Eternal Phelps Rally Cry that “God Hates Fags”.

I’m sure it was just some teenage girls being extraordinarily mean and stupid, but if there’s a chance to start a legal precident that the usage of “God Hates Fags” constitutes a hate crime, well, you have to start somewhere. Sorry girls, but you’ll have to burn hard for a higher cause.

That was a lot more vague. I got the impression in the OP’s link that the flier had a picture of the targeted student kissing a guy. This link just said “two men” are pictured kissing.

Even if it was targeted, couldn’t this be prosecuted under harassment or something?

Cluricaun’s link provides a little more info - I was going to say that without seeing the actual flier and reading the actual law it’s kind of hard for us to make an intelligent decision on this one.

So they wrote some pretty nasty stuff that was specifically targeting a person that they didn’t like, and it was written with the intent (according to the police) of “alarming and disturbing” that person and that’s the definition of the crime, that about the size of it?

I will defend the right of those girls to say that they don’t like gays. However if they are singling one person out and what they are doing would reasonably make that person fear for their safety or it’s so intrusive that it satisfies the definition of harassment then I don’t have a problem with that being potentially illegal.

In this case it sounds like there was also a “hate crime enhancement” because they were targeting somebody based on sexual orientation - that would be in addition to the initial charge.

To personalize this, I will defend David Duke’s right to say that he doesn’t like Jews. However if David Duke starts putting out leaflets saying something like “Let’s get that Jewboy Valgard” then he’s giving me reason to fear for my personal safety and I’ll be giving the cops a little call.

I like for the freedom of speech to be as loosely interpreted as possible. I don’t want to see the introduction of “hate speech” laws in the United States like there is in Canada and Europe. The idea that someone can express an opinion, and be put in prison for years (like the Austrian holocaust denier) because of it is reprehensible (although maybe not as reprehensible as holocaust denial, that’s beside the point.)

Without knowing more of the specifics, if the fliers were specific threats or would constitute legal harassment, something should be done. If they were vague and can’t be interpreted as harassment, then no one should be punished (by the law.)

Yeah, I don’t like the whole tone of “hate crime” laws, especially “hate speech” laws. But anyway, the latest link does specify that the student was identified & targeted in this flier, so it’s not just a “freedom of speech” issue.

As much as bigotry apalls, I am very uncomfortable with the whole concept of a “hate crime”, it supposes a legal determination about a criminal state of mind. TG, IANAL but it seems, just offhand, as there are sufficient legal remedies for illegal actions, I don’t want to start adjudicating illegal thinking or any form of “thought crime”.

You might want to read this, Mens Rea.

CMC fnord!

I think the concept of mens rea and hate crimes are different. Mens rea refers to the actual intent to commit a crime. With racially-motivated crimes, certainly showing a suspect held racist views will go towards proving there was mens rea, but it’s still two different things. A racist person might very well not be out actually beating up/harassing the target of his ire. Not liking someone and actually intending to do some thing about it are two different things.

Plus, people don’t get charged just for having mens rea (as I understand it). You can charge someone with attempted, unsuccessful murder, but this requires an actual attempt. The thought alone, while offensive, is not an offense - as IMHO it should be. fnord!

Thank you. Those are my sentiments exactly.

Can you provide an example of a democracy where it’s illegal to think something?

Every example of “hate crime” legislation I’ve ever seen made it illegal to DO something, not just think it.

Er, what? That’s what I was saying - thoughts alone are not a criminal offense, no matter how offensive they may be.

It’s freedom of speech all the way unless there were threats made. “God Hates Fags” doesn’t count as a threat. If the girls were trying to rally a mob, that’s different

The difference here is that they put a picture of a specific guy, someone at their school, on the shirts as well. I’m not fan of hate crimes, since I think “crime” is sufficient, and in this case there probably is some crime involved in using the picture of someone who can’t be considered a public entity. And if it wasn’t a crime, it certainly should be against school policy to harass a fellow student. When you set foot on school grounds, you have to accept some restrictions on behavior that would otherwise be protected off campus.

If the media reports are accurate - always a big if - then this is retarded.

CBS says the girls were charged with disorderly conduct, hate crime, and obstructing justice.

Disorderly conduct… maybe. Though I’m not sure what’s disorderly about handing out flyers.

No clue on what they supposedly did to “obstruct justice.” The articles certainly don’t say.

But hate speech? If the first amendment means anything, it means you can’t be arrested or jailed for having an unpopular opinion - or for voicing it.

Does God hate fags? It’s really unlikely that God’s an ignorant bigot, but who knows? The girls are certainly entitled to be ignorant themselves. If they want to make fools of themselves in public, they’re entitled. The constitution gives them that right.

“Our focus is to make sure that each of our students is able to learn while at school and is in a situation where they feel comfortable coming to school and learning.”

Ok, so suspend them. Put them in detention. The school’s free to have rules for students who go to school. Especially when they’re doing things on school property.

But put them in jail?

It’s a violation of the first amendment, and it’s ignorant public policy - and a waste of public resources as well.

I mean are they really so rich in Crystal Lake they have money for incarcerating 16 yr old girls for handing out flyers?

If so, the residents of that county are overdue for a tax break.

Uh-oh. Here we go again.