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Free Speech vs. Hate Speech: Home

A guide to what is and isn't covered under the First Amendment

The First Amendment states, in part, that: “Congress shall make no law...abridging freedom of speech.”

This guide explores what that concept means and what happens when it conflicts with hate speech, as well as providing a variety of perspectives to help navigate this difficult question.

As seen in recent events, particularly January 6, 2021, speech matters and can cause damage to people and institutions.

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Free Speech as Outlined in the First Amendment

 The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. That protection ends, however, when language crosses the line into targeted harassment or threats, or that creates a pervasively hostile environment. But merely offensive or bigoted speech does not rise to that level, and determining when conduct crosses that line is a legal question that requires examination on a case-by-case basis. (American Library Association)

Read more here:

First Amendment. (2002). In S. Phelps (Ed.), World of Criminal Justice, Gale. Gale. Credo Reference

Hate Speech

“Hate speech” can be defined as speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is protected under the First Amendment, unless used to target or harass. It is generally defined on a case-by-case basis.

Read more here:


First Amendment: What do we know?

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