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Hate speech refers to inflammatory statements made directly or indirectly towards a group based on said group's race, skin colour, religion, beliefs, background, mental health, physical ability, social class, sexual orientation, gender and so forth that may incite violence or encourage discrimination. It is generally nonsensical.
Due to power dynamics in many multicultural societies, most hate speech laws are designed to protect historically persecuted people from groups with power.
Difference from hate crime
In the U.S., hate speech is distinguished from a "hate crime" in that no one is physically hurt by the former and it isn't illegal. A hate crime is a crime of violence against a person or their property motivated by hatred of the victim for reasons of their religious, racial, disabled or sexual status. Hate speech uttered in the commission of a crime may be taken as evidence of the hate-driven motive for it.
Freedom of speech
Some argue[Who?] that freedom of speech should not encompass hateful speech about men, women or various minorities – sexual, religious or racial. In some countries,[Which?] a balance is sought between freedom of speech (which people should have) and people's right not to be offended. By contrast, in the U.S., political speech is protected above all other categories of protected speech, and therefore, no balancing test occurs. However speech is still restricted in immigrants who can be denied naturalization based on political affiliation. Moreover, the fact that, say, some Christians regard any critical examination of Christianity or the Bible as hate speech shows that one person's hate speech is another person's political (and merely critical, not hateful) speech.
The First Amendment only applies to the government and the actions it is constrained from; private entities generally may have speech codes or otherwise limit speech. Therefore, only state universities are prohibited from banning hate speech, although private universities also tend to respect freedom of speech as well as academic freedom. A few college hate speech codes were so egregious that the faculty overturned them before court action took place; one of the most notable instances occurred at the University of Wisconsin–Madison after a student attempted to have a professor sanctioned over explaining Geoffrey Chaucer's use of the word niggardly in an English class. But such schemes have never been held to be constitutional at public universities.
Unfortunately, the percentage of the public who believes legal bans on hate speech exist is depressingly high; the number of college students who also believe it is a cause for some alarm. Of course, statements considered to constitute hate speech actually can be deleterious to the persons it is said about or directed at. But it is not the proper role of the state to play arbiter of what mere ideas a citizen may utter under penalty of criminal conviction and sanction.
Hate speech as a cause of suicide and mental illnesses
Some research has examined the link between the prevalence of hate speech and the extensiveness of mental illness and suicide among the groups targeted by the hate speech. Many groups who are often the victims of hate speech have higher suicide rates. In one study, LGBT youth who lived in neighborhoods with higher levels of LGBT assault crimes were more likely to report suicidal ideation. In another study LGBT youth who perceived more discrimination had higher rates of depressive symptomatology and suicidal ideation. An investigation into immigrant suicide rates revealed that they were accurately predicted by the amount of hate speech directed towards the immigrant group, concluding "hate speech predicts death". This is the most common justification given for the existence of hate speech laws.
- "Criminal Justice Act 2003". http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/44/section/146.
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