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The 3 Rules of Hate Speech and the First Amendment: New at Reason

Episode 2 of Free Speech Rules by UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh


Here are three rules you should know about "Hate Speech" and the First Amendment:

Rule 1. The First Amendment protects all ideas–loving, hateful, or in between.

In the United States, "hate speech" is just a political label, like "un-American speech" or "rude speech." Some people use the phrase broadly, some more narrowly–but there's no legal definition, because there is no "hate speech" exception to the First Amendment.

Rule 2. Some speech is not protected by the First Amendment, but that's true regardless of whether it's bigoted or hateful.

For instance, threats of violence are constitutionally unprotected.

Rule 3. Hate crime laws are constitutional, so long as they punish violence or vandalism, not speech.

The law often punishes people more because of why they did what they did. Killing someone for money will get you a harsher punishment than killing them out of momentary anger. Likewise, firing an employee because of his race will get you a civil lawsuit; firing an employee for most other reasons won't.

Written by Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment law professor at UCLA.
Produced and edited by Austin Bragg, who is not.

This is the second episode of Free Speech Rules, a video series on free speech and the law. Volokh is the co-founder of the Volokh Conspiracy, which is hosted at Reason.com.

This is not legal advice.
If this were legal advice, it would be followed by a bill.
Please use responsibly.

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