Free Speech Group Says Even Hateful Protests Are Protected

( – A fundamental aspect of freedom of speech is a willingness to hear opinions considered hateful, distasteful, unpopular, or otherwise unsuitable for public airing. In America, it means we let racists like the KKK gather in public and march just like any other group expressing their political and religious beliefs, as long as they remain peaceful and within the law. It also means we have to tolerate anti-Jewish sentiments and justifications for Hamas’ brutal terror attacks on Israeli and international civilians.

Some politicians are naturally reaching for authoritarianism to combat the hateful sentiments, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) wants to force college campuses to “combat antisemitism” on campuses as a precondition for receiving federal funding. Critics from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) said the amendment was too vague for campuses to be able to effectively delineate between hate and protected speech.

FIRE writers further pointed out that campuses would be forced to silence one side of the debate which would chill free speech expression and force professors to self-censor. They also pointed out that allowing distasteful free expression allows holders of the ideology to expose themselves.

While some students will use their rights to support Hamas and Palestinians in general, others will express themselves in other ways. The government has no responsibility to incentivize one side of a debate or another, they argue.

Congress should focus on delineating between protected but unpopular sentiments versus criminal or civil violations of the law, FIRE writers said. They pointed out that ethnic discrimination during admissions was legal and popular across academic institutions in America until very recently and suggested lawmakers could focus on that issue.

They also suggested criminalizing bad behavior, like harassment, and punishing violent offenders (unpopular with Democrat DAs) are effective means of combating hate and protecting the public.

Finally, FIRE argues that more distasteful public debates will occur in the future, and we can’t reach for the authoritarian hammer every time unpopular sentiments are expressed in public if we want to have a functioning and lasting free society.

Copyright 2023,