Archive | “Hate Speech”

Irish Constitutional Convention Recommends Referendum on Changing Blasphemy Ban to “Incitement to Religious Hatred” Ban

The Irish Constitution expressly prohibits blasphemy; the Irish Constitutional Convention has just voted to recommend a referendum on replacing this provision with a ban on “incitement to religious hatred,” though delegates were split on whether there should be a statutory blasphemy ban as well:

Voting yesterday on whether the offence of blasphemy should be kept as it is in the Constitution, 38 per cent said yes, 61 per cent no and 1 per cent were undecided or had no opinion.

In a follow-up question, 38 per cent said the offence should be removed from the Constitution, 53 per cent said it should be replaced with a new general provision to include incitement to religious hatred and 9 per cent had no opinion. Asked whether there should be a legislative provision for the offence of blasphemy, 49 per cent of members said yes, 50 per cent said no and 1 per cent were undecided or had no opinion.

According to the Irish Times,

Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland said the offence should be retained, arguing that freedom of expression should not be “unrestrained” and must be used responsibly. The Order of the Knights of St Columbanus argued in a written submission that the constitutional prohibition on blasphemy served to safeguard the right of believers “not to suffer unwarranted offence arising from the gratuitous impugning of sacred matter”.

On the other hand, secularist groups, civil liberties groups, and “[t]he umbrella group representing almost all Christian churches in Ireland” urged repeal of the ban. As readers of the blog might gather, I think both a ban on blasphemy and a ban on “incitement to religious hatred” are improper. Religious belief systems, like other belief systems, should be open to criticism and mockery — and, indeed to [...]

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Question for Supporters of the Boycott of Ender’s Game

If you think people should boycott the movie Ender’s Game (discussed by co-blogger Dale here) because of Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay marriage remarks, do you also think that people back in the 1940s and 50s were justified in threatening to boycott movies if Hollywood employed Communists as screenwriters? Do you the studios were justified in responding to that boycott by blacklisting known Communists (and all or almost all [historian Ronald Radosh told me 98%] of them were in fact members of the Communist Party, USA)? Do you think there should be a similar blacklist today for writers like Card who express homophobic views?

UPDATE: I see some commenters are distinguishing between a boycott and a blacklist. But the whole point of boycotting an artist’s work on political/ideological grounds is to encourage a blacklist, even though no one is calling is that. You boycott an artist’s work, those employing the artist lose money, so they learn no to hire that artist or those who express similar views again. Thus, an informal blacklist. A commenter points out that this sort of scenario doesn’t involve formal collusion. So would the “blacklist” have been okay if each individual studio had done it without consulting their peers?

To put my own cards on the table, I think boycotts and blacklists are perfectly appropriate (though in a free society it’s best to give each other a little slack for the sake of social peace), and I think the blacklist of the Communists was fine to the extent it was a response to justified public hostility to Communists and Communism (remember, we’re talking about Stalinists when the blacklist started) and not to implicit threats of government action. It was, in my understanding, overwhelmingly the former. [Added: We now know that anti-Communist activists of the day were [...]

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Joseph Goebbels’ Early Novel Banned by Russian Authorities as “Extremist” Material

So reports; the book is a Russian translation of Michael (1929). According to RIA Novosti,

Russian authorities launched an extremism investigation last month after reports that the novel was being sold in several Moscow bookstores, along with Benito Mussolini’s “The Third Way.” Both books were published and distributed to stores by the Algoritm publishing house. A criminal case of inciting hatred has been opened.

Mussolini’s book was ruled extremist by a Russian court in early October. Moreover, a federal law on combating extremism already recognizes the works of Italian fascist leaders, including Mussolini, as extremist without the need for additional evaluation.

In December 2012, a Moscow court added Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg’s “Myth of the 20th Century” and “Memoirs,” as well as Viktor Pranov’s book, “Survival Law of the Foulest,” to the list of extremist literature banned from publication and sale. Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” has also been banned as extremist in Russia.

I would think that reading Hitler’s and Mussolini’s manifestoes would be pretty important to people studying 20th Century European history, and reading Goebbels’ novel would likewise be valuable to people who are trying to understand more about the Nazi leadership. And even if the government ought to be in the business of suppressing dangerous ideology (a view I do not hold) I would think that Goebbels’ novel is quite unlikely to be much of a danger in modern Russia. (Indeed, for whatever it’s worth, according to the publisher says that it printed only two or three thousand copies, which makes it quite unlikely that it is trying to propagandize, and makes it much more likely that the books are indeed aimed at people interested in history.) In any case, though, I thought I’d note this for the benefit of those who are [...]

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It’s a Crime to Say This About Muslim Men in Denmark

According to the Copenhagen Post (Sept. 18, 2013), Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan was convicted under “anti-racism legislation” for posting this blog entry on a newspaper Web site, quoting and endorsing an earlier statement by Lars Kragh Andersen:

I am very convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters. This is, according to my understanding as a Danish-Iranian, due to a defective and inhumane culture — if you can even call it a culture at all. But you can say, I think, that it is a defective and inhumane religion whose textbook, the Koran, is more immoral, deplorable and crazy than manuals of the two other global religions combined.

“By publishing the statement in the blog, the defendant presented statements in which a group of people are mocked and degraded because of their belief,” the court ruled, and that was enough to make the speech criminal.

I oppose bans on “hate speech” generally, but bans on criticism of religion strike me as especially wrong. Religions are connected to ideologies and to cultures. They can do good and they can do harm. They deserve to be evaluated and criticized, just as any ideologies deserve to be evaluated and criticized.

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and any other religions — and their adherents — should have no more immunity from criticism than Communism, libertarianism, liberalism, conservatism, or any other belief system, especially since belief systems produce action systems. Sad to see what has become unsayable in Europe, and what European governments are apparently trying to make unthinkable as well.

Thanks to Walter Olson (Overlawyered) for the pointer. [...]

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Could Doctors’ Public Condemnation of Homosexuality Lead to Medical Board Investigation of Doctors?

Yes, say 60% of the state medical boards respondents surveyed in Greysen et al., Online Professionalism Investigations by State Medical Boards: First, Do No Harm, 158(2) Ann Intern Med. 124-30 (2013). Here’s the vignette that was given in the survey:

Discriminatory Speech Online

A concerned staff member at a local hospital reports discriminatory language on a physician’s Facebook page:

“I saw this homosexual patient who came in complaining of dysuria and wants me to help. Well … that’s what you get for being gay. I really don’t feel any compassion for these people — they don’t deserve antibiotics, they need to change their behaviors.”

Note that this didn’t involve breach of patient confidentiality (that was a separate vignette). Nor is it just a matter of when a private or public employer may choose to fire an employee. Rather, this has to do with when a medical board can investigate a doctor, with an eye towards imposing disciplinary measures.

And indeed the Federation of State Medical Boards takes the same view, saying that “State medical boards have the authority to discipline physicians for unprofessional behavior relating to the inappropriate use of social networking media, such as … Discriminatory language or practices online” (again, quite apart from breaches of confidentiality, which are covered by a separate bullet point). “State medical boards have the option to discipline physicians for inappropriate or unprofessional conduct while using social media or social networking websites with actions that range from a letter of reprimand to the revocation of a license.” Moreover, I take it that the reprimands won’t just be the board expressing its own views; rather, the discriminatory-lanaguage-based reprimands can lead to greater punishment in the future for future offenses.

This strikes me as a serious lack of attention to First Amendment rights. Though [...]

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Order Barring Defendant from “Us[ing] Terms Such as ‘Nigger,’ While in Earshot of” a Neighbor, Reversed on Appeal

Lloyd v. Hardesty (Cal. Ct. App. May 31, 2013) (nonprecedential); for more on the factual backstory, see an earlier opinion in the case:

The trial court entered a … restraining order prohibiting Wax from harassing Lloyd or her daughter. In particular, the court’s order provided that “(1) Wax ‘shall not make direct contact with [] Lloyd under any circumstances or conditions regarding [] Lloyd’s daughter and the use of the property at [] Lloyd’s residence unless done by written instrument’; (2) Wax ‘may not water her plants so as to cause any water to spill over on to the property where [] Lloyd resides’; (3) Wax ‘may not follow [] Lloyd or her daughter to any location’; (4) Wax ‘may not use terms such as “nigger,” while in earshot of [] Lloyd’; and (5) Wax ‘shall not refer to the “KKK,” under any circumstances, whether she is speaking directly to [] Lloyd or musing to herself, when within earshot of [] Lloyd or her daughter.’” …

Wax appeals, contending that the court’s order lacks an evaluation of the factors for the issuance of a restraining order and is not based on clear and convincing evidence. We agree, and therefore again remand the matter to the trial court to hold a hearing, to make the requisite evaluation of the evidence, provide any reasoning for its ruling including any relevant authority, and set forth any findings made on clear and convincing evidence. As section 527.6, subdivision (i) provides, “[a]t the hearing, the judge shall receive any testimony that is relevant, and may make an independent inquiry. If the judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that unlawful harassment exists, an injunction shall issue prohibiting the harassment.” …

In addition, we note that the … [order] is vague and overbroad in

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Greek Bill That Would Outlaw “Approving or Belittling the Seriousness of Nazi Crimes, the Jewish Holocaust, and Other Genocides”

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Greek Prime Minister and his party no longer oppose this bill, which I take it makes it much more likely that it will get enacted. The bill seems to be an attempt to go after the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, but — unsurprisingly when it comes to such speech restrictions — it sweeps much more broadly than that. “Other genocides” would, of course, cover not just the Holocaust, the history of which is unusually well-settled by historical standards, but also to debates about the Turkish killings of Armenians during World War I, Europeans’ treatment of American Indians, discussions of various modern genocides in places like Rwanda and Sudan, and more. (For an example of how some such genocide denial laws are already being used against legitimate historians of, for instance, World War I, see here.)

I think even narrow versions of such laws, focused on the Holocaust, are improper. Among other things, we can have confidence in the historians’ consensus about the past only to the extent that we know that this consensus has withstood and continues to withstand new evidence and new arguments. If it’s illegal to question the consensus, that makes the consensus less worthy of belief, not more.

But the problem with attempts to ban Holocaust denial isn’t limited to this — rather, and entirely unsurprisingly, such laws over time become broader and broader. Once the legal system and society accept the principle that historical claims (and moral judgments about the history) can be outlawed, the principle can no longer be logically limited to one unusually well-documented event. The way “to avoid these ends [is] by avoiding these beginnings.”

Thanks to Prof. Bill Poser for the pointer. [...]

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Wales Police Order Removal of “Obey Our Laws / Respect Our Beliefs / Or Get Out of Our Country” T-Shirt

So reports the South Wales Argus (thanks to Prof. Bill Poser for the link):

A NEWPORT shopkeeper has been forced by police to remove a T-shirt from his shop window because they felt it “could be seen to be inciting racial hatred.”

Matthew Taylor, 35, the owner of Taylor’s clothes store on Emlyn Walk in the city, printed up and displayed the T-shirt with the slogan: “Obey our laws, respect our beliefs or get out of our country” after Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was killed in near Woolwich barracks in London last week.

But following a complaint from a member of the public, police came to his store and threatened to arrest him unless he removed the Tshirt from sight….

A spokeswoman for Gwent police confirmed: “We did have a call from a member of the public. We visited the shop and asked him to remove it (the T-shirt) as it could be seen to be inciting racial hatred.” …

Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.”

But of course — freedom of speech is all well and good, but once it starts offending people …. [...]

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The U.S. Attorney and Chief FBI Special Agent “Will Provide Input on How Civil Rights Can Be Violated by Those Who Post Inflammatory Documents Targeted at Muslims on Social Media”

So reports The Tullahoma News (Tennessee), in an article that has been heavily linked to and quoted in recent days:

A special meeting has been scheduled [for June 4] for the stated purpose of increasing awareness and understanding that American Muslims are not the terrorists some have made them out to be in social media and other circles….

Special speakers for the event will be Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee [i.e., the chief federal prosecutor for that district -EV], and Kenneth Moore, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville Division….

Killian and Moore will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media.

“This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian told The News Monday. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.” …

Killian referred to a Facebook posting made by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West that showed a picture of a man pointing a double-barreled shotgun at a camera lens with the caption saying, “How to Wink at a Muslim.”

Killian said he and Moore had discussed the issue.

“If a Muslim had posted ‘How to Wink at a Christian,’ could you imagine what would have happened?” he said. “We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”

Killian said Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.

“That’s what everybody needs to understand,” he said.

Killian said slide show presentations will be made.

As a Politico post points out,

While threats directed at individuals or

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English Police: “People Should Stop and Think About What They Say on Social Media Before Making Statements as the Consequences Could Be Serious”

From the Mirror (UK):

A 22-year-old man has been charged on suspicion of making malicious comments on Facebook following the [brutal public murder by jihadists -EV] of British soldier Lee Rigby.

Benjamin Flatters, of Lincoln, was arrested last night [and charged] after complaints were made to Lincolnshire Police about comments made on Facebook, which were allegedly of a racist or anti-religious nature….

A second man was visited by officers and warned about his activity on social media, the spokesman added….

The charge comes after two men were earlier released on bail following their arrest for making alleged offensive comments on Twitter about the murder….

A 23-year-old and a 22-year-old, both from Bristol, were held under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred.

Detective Inspector Ed Yaxley, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: “On Wednesday evening, we were contacted by people concerned about comments made on social media accounts.

“We began inquiries into the comments and at around 3.20am two men, aged 23 and 22, were detained at two addresses in Bristol.

“The men were arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred. Our inquiries into these comments continue.

“These comments were directed against a section of our community. Comments such as these are completely unacceptable and only cause more harm to our community in Bristol.

“People should stop and think about what they say on social media before making statements as the consequences could be serious.”

I couldn’t find the texts of the allegedly criminal tweets; please let me know if you know what they were. But whatever they were, I suspect the warnings from police officers — coupled with coverage that does not explain what the comments were — would deter people from engaging in a good [...]

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Law Student Arrested, Chiefly for Anti-Semitic and Racist E-Mail to Student Government (and for Offensive Posts About Professors)

Here are the relevant details from the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant:

That, on February 25, 2013 at about 0855 an email was sent to the Student Bar Association (SBA) email account, ( which is located on the University of Connecticut School of Law, at 45 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, CT, from the account of a UConn Law Student named Anya K. Bargh ( This email stated: “Let’s celebrate diversity by having the next dean NOT be Jewish”

That, on February 25, 2013 at about 0910 hrs another email was sent to the SBA from Bargh’s UConn Law account stating: “Here’s a hint, um, getting pretty sick from our all jew cast with a nigger on top”. That, the emails were opened by a Student Bar Association Committee member, Jessica Signor. Signor said this email stated: “Let’s celebrate diversity by having the next dean NOT be Jewish” was in response to an email that the Student Bar Association had sent all the students in reference to the new Law School Dean Search Committee. The Faculty/Staff and students who viewed these emails were offended and upset by the email.

That SBA President Franklin Perry also received the emails. He said that during his experience here at UConn Law School, this is the first time in 3 years he had ever experienced anything close to bigotry. Perry said he is an African American male and was shocked and in disbelief. Perry said he doesn’t want the University of Connecticut in general to be affected by the perception of this type of person. He said he feels the University does not affiliate with these types of people. Perry said at one point he thought Bargh was aiming these comments on him, because he is African American and the President of SBA.

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“Racist Hate Speech” Conviction in Belgium for Tearing up Koran in Front of a Group of Muslims

Dr. Jogchum Vrielink (coordinator of the Centre for Discrimination Law at the University of Leuven, Belgium) passes this along:

In Belgium a man was convicted for ‘racist hate speech’ because he publicly tore up a Koran, before the eyes of a group of Muslims. The case illustrates the need to protect free speech against those seeking to criminalise ‘Islamophobia’.

On 8 June 2012 a man, identified as Arne S., participated in a demonstration organised by a radical right-wing political party, Vlaams Belang (‘Flemish Interest’), opposing the construction of a mosque in the Belgian coastal city of Ostend. In the aftermath of the demonstration S. tore up a Koran in the presence of a small group of Muslims, with whom he had exchanged words. The public prosecutor indicted S. for incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of race and ethnic origin.

The defendant’s attorney called for an acquittal, arguing that no infraction on the anti-racism legislation had occurred. The criminal court in Bruges convicted the man, however, on 11 March 2013. Due in part to the unfavourable criminal history of the defendant, the sentence was relatively severe, consisting of an effective prison sentence of four months and a fine of 600 euros. The court held that the facts were serious and testified to “a blatant lack of tolerance and a highly questionable attitude”.


The ruling fits within a wider development in the legal world in general, and in Belgium in particular, of increased sensitivity to what is often referred to as ‘Islamophobia’. Another notable example of this trend, within Belgian case law, was the conviction, a few years ago, of an individual who, while drunk, had shouted “Terrorist!” at a sun-tanned, but Caucasian (!), snack bar owner, adding that the latter should “return to his own country”.

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U.N. Committee Says: This Speech Must Lead to a Criminal Prosecution of the Speaker

The German government decided not to prosecute the speaker based on this speech, but the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recently stated the contrary, TBB v. Germany (Feb. 26, 2013). Here’s the speech that, according to the Committee, must lead to a criminal prosecution in countries that have ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. (I am pleased to say that the U.S. has not recognized the competence of the Committee to enforce the Convention, though most European countries have; the U.S. has also ratified subject to a specific reservation in favor of the freedom of speech.)

The German cultural journal Lettre International (2009 fall edition, number 86)3 published an interview with Mr. Thilo Sarrazin, the former Finance Senator of the Berlin Senate (from 2002 to April 2009, Social Democratic Party) and member of the Board of Directors of the German Central Bank (from May 2009), entitled “Class instead of Mass: from the Capital City of Social Services to the Metropolis of the Elite”. In this interview, Mr. Sarrazin expressed himself in a derogatory and discriminatory way about social “lower classes”, which are “not productive” and would have to “ disappear over time” in order to create a city of the “elite”. In this context, he stated, inter alia:

[…] The city has a productive circulation of people, who work and who are needed, be they part of the administration or of the ministries. Beside them, there is a number of people, about 20% of the population, who are economically not needed. They live off social welfare (Hartz IV) and transfer income; on a federal level this segment is only 8-10%. This part of the population needs to disappear over time. A large number of Arabs and Turks in

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Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment

Philadelphia magazine published an article called Being White in Philly, with the subtitle, “Whites, race, class, and the things that never get said.” Apparently the Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, thinks there’s not even a constitutional right to say those things; in a letter to the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission, the mayor argues,

While I fully recognize that constitutional protections afforded the press are intended to protect the media from censorship by the government, the First Amendment, like other constitutional rights, is not an unfettered right, and notwithstanding the First Amendment, a publisher has a duty to the public to exercise its role in a responsible way. I ask the Commission to evaluate whether the “speech” employed in this essay is not the reckless equivalent of “shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater,” its prejudiced, fact-challenged generalizations an incitement to extreme reaction.

The implication — which I think is very strong — that the “speech” is indeed unprotected by the First Amendment under the “incitement” exception is absolutely wrong: Under Brandenburg v. Ohio and Hess v. Indiana, the speech in the article is clearly protected. (It’s true that a narrow range of speech that is intended and likely to produce imminent illegal conduct, with imminent meaning within hours or at most a few days, rather than at some unspecified future time, is unprotected, but the magazine article definitely does not fit within that.) And it’s quite troubling, I think, when a mayor (who has power over, among others, the Police Department) suggests that the expression of opinions that he disapproves of about race is constitutionally unprotected.

The specific call in the mayor’s letter, which is for the Commission to “conduct an inquiry into the state of racial issues, biases, and attitudes within and among the many communities and [...]

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Canadian Supreme Court Upholds Prohibitions on Speech that “Tends to Expose” Groups “to Hatred” Based on Their Sexual Orientation

I haven’t posted much in the last few days, because I’ve been working on yet another cert petition. (“[T]he burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire.”) But I thought I’d pass along a link to a post on this subject by Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause). [...]

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