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To continue the dialogue about “free speech,” let’s look at the wording and the legal precedence by our courts. First is the Bill of Rights' wording: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Now let’s look at how the court has interpreted it. The Supreme Court has called the few exceptions to the First Amendment “well-defined and narrowly limited.” They include obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, true threats and speech integral to already criminal conduct. There is no general First Amendment exception allowing the government to punish “hate speech” that denigrates people based on their identity. Statements we call “hate speech” might occasionally fall into an existing First Amendment exception: a racist speech might seek to incite imminent violence against a group or might be reasonably interpreted as an immediate threat to do harm. But “hate speech,” like other distasteful types of speech we loathe, is broadly protected.

I’m not an attorney or work in the legal field, but I know that congressional law is hard work. So, let’s leave it to the courts to work this out.

Stan Hall

Corvallis (April 1)

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