(TheConservativeNews.org) – There’s no doubt that hate speech can be upsetting when one hears it or reads it on the internet. The debate about whether or not to censor this speech, especially in the age of social media, is one that rages on.
What did our Founding Fathers have to say about free speech? Should we use these precedents as a guideline on how to handle it going forward?
We know with 100% certainty the Founding Fathers believed that protecting Americans’ right to express themselves and speak up was important. The First Amendment of the Constitution makes it very clear the framers of our country did not believe big government should step in and censor people.
In November 1737, 50 years before the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay for The Pennsylvania Gazette entitled “On Freedom of Speech and the Press.” The then-31-year-old said, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government.” He believed if that right was stripped from a society, then tyranny would be “erected on its ruins.”
On March 15, 1783, in an address to the Army, George Washington said if the freedom of speech is taken away then we could be led “like sheep to the slaughter.”
The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, pushed for the Bill of Rights in the Constitution because he believed a powerful federal government might restrict the civil liberties of the people. In addition to freedom of religion and the press, he thought freedom of speech was a sacred right.
Supreme Court on Hate Speech
In 2017, the Supreme Court handed down an opinion in the Matal v. Tam case and made clear there is no “hate speech” exemption to the First Amendment. Justice Samuel Alito penned the majority opinion and said the “proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence” is that America protects the right “to express ‘the thought that we hate.’”
The reality is, we can’t censor hate speech because the Constitution doesn’t say we are only free to express our nice thoughts. And if we don’t uphold our core ideals, who is going to decide what is and isn’t hateful? Partisan politicians? That is a slippery slope we do not want to be on.
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