Op-Ed: Hate Speech vs Hate Crime in Florida – We Must Know the Difference to Protect Freedom of Speech

In an interesting twist, legislation introduced in Florida this week would make it easier to sue journalists for defamation.  File photo: Nadezda Murmakova, Shutter Stock, licensed.

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” –Harry Truman 

TALLAHASSEE, FL – American citizens have a guaranteed Constitutional right to criticize creepy Joe Biden and the stolen 2020 Election, the corrupt DOJ, FBI, and CIA, noxious Nancy Pelosi and her minions cranky Chuck Schumer and RINO Mitch McTurtle, and any other politician. 

In addition, I will not be arrested, charged, and jailed for stating that transgenderism is an unscientific ideology with no factual foundation in biology. Or for proclaiming that males (aka drag queens) are grooming and sexualizing children when they obscenely twerk (aka draw attention to genitals) while wearing thongs, pasties, and lipstick. The videos from Libs of TikTok verify the sexually explicit behavior. Furthermore, performing an act for sexual gratification in front of children is considered to be a form of sexual child abuse. 

When radical LGBTQ activists call me a transphobic bigot, their hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. Putting the same words on a sign or a flyer is also protected speech.  

As a freedom-loving citizen, I have to support hate speech because it’s free speech.  

But what if a journalist writing for a digital newspaper published the name and picture of an elected official on the front page with his hand touching the hands of young children – and referred to him as a groomer?  

Related: South Florida Gay News Disgusting, Depraved Cover of “Ron DeGroomer” Gets Censored   

Could being called a groomer without evidence be construed as defamation, libel or slander? Is that hate speech which is protected as free speech? I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know the answer. 

“There are several different areas of the law, including slander and libel, in which speech alone, because of the harm it does, can actually be regulated, right, and it’s not because the viewpoint of the speech. It’s because of damages, injury, reputation, and it is factually false. Hate speech, most of hate speech that I’m aware of, it’s opinion. It may be despicable opinion, but they’re not false statements of fact,” notes WBUR Radio

In an interesting twist, legislation introduced in Florida this week would make it easier to sue journalists for defamation. 

The Civil Justice Subcommittee was the first of three stops for HB 991, sponsored by Rep. Alex Andrade of Pensacola. It cleared the committee by a 14-4 vote after extended discussion, probing from Democrats, and criticism from members of the public, as reported in Florida Politics

“This bill could be titled Journalism 101,” Andrade said during questions. 

What does the First Amendment say? 

The First Amendment safeguards free speech in the United States, including hate speech. The First Amendment requires the government to preserve vigorous discussion on subjects of public concern, even if such debate devolves into disagreeable, rude, or bigoted speech and causes others to experience sadness, resentment, or terror.  

Do college students understand free speech? 

An overwhelming majority of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison think the government should be able to punish “hate speech,” according to a 2021 study. Read the article in The Federalist

Of course, hate speech can be hurtful – that’s why the word ‘hate’ is used in front of the word ‘speech.’ 

In a Supreme Court case on the issue, Matal v. Tam (2017), the justices unanimously reaffirmed there is effectively no “hate speech” exception to the free speech rights protected by the First Amendment and that the U.S. government may not discriminate against speech on the basis of the viewpoints of citizens.  

A 2019, opinion piece in the left-winger Washington Post tried to make an argument for why America needs a hate speech law. Argh. Who would be the enforcer of a hate speech law and what would be the punishment? 

Do Americans know the difference between hate speech and hate crime?  

Hate Speech 

As offensive as some words and phrases can be to citizens in the USA – it remains free speech – and needs to stay as free speech. 

U.S. law does not define “hate speech,” just as it does not define “evil thoughts,” “rudeness,” “unpatriotic discourse,” or any other kind of communication that some may find offensive.  

Hate speech is generally defined as any utterance intended to denigrate, humiliate, or instigate hatred towards a group or class of individuals because of their race, religion, skin color, sexual identity, gender identity, ethnicity, handicap, or national origin. 

I find the following to be humorous: 

  1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the things they read (or watch, or listen to, or taste, or whatever). They’re also entitled to express them online.
  2. Sometimes those opinions will be ones you don’t like.
  3. Sometimes those opinions won’t be very nice.
  4. The people expressing those may be (but are not always) a**holes.
  5. However, if your solution to this “problem” is to vex, annoy, threaten or harass them, you are almost certainly a bigger a**hole.
  6. You may also be twelve.
  7. You are not responsible for anyone else’s actions or karma, but you are responsible for your own.
  8. So leave them alone and go about your own life.”

[Bad Reviews: I Can Handle Them, and So Should You (Blog post, July 17, 2012)] –John Scalzi 

Hate speech may only be criminalized under existing First Amendment doctrine if it incites impending criminal behavior or consists of explicit threats of harm aimed at a person or group. 

Hate Crime 

Florida is a law-and-order state, and we will show absolutely no tolerance for hate crimes.” –Ashley Moody, Florida AG 

This year’s annual Hate Crime Report shows that Florida’s law enforcement agencies reported 148 of these crimes statewide from Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2021.  

According to the latest report listing 2021 hate crime cases, most of the victims — 64.5% — were targeted due to their race, ethnicity, or ancestry; another 16% were targeted over their sexual orientation; and 14% of cases involved religious bias, as reported on the website of the Office of the Attorney General for Florida.  

Read the 36-page document HERE. 

Florida: A hate crime is an act committed or attempted by one person or group against another – or that person’s property – that in any way constitutes an expression of hatred toward the victim based on his or her personal characteristics. It is a crime in which the perpetrator intentionally selects the victim based on one of the following characteristics: race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, homeless status, advanced age or mental/physical disability. 

Florida: In 2021, race accounted for 48.0 percent of all reported hate crimes. Sexual orientation accounted for 28.4 percent of all reported hate crimes. Religion accounted for 13.5 percent of all reported hate crimes. The victim’s ethnicity/national origin accounted for 7.4 percent of all reported hate crimes. The victim’s homeless status accounted for 2.0 percent of all reported hate crimes. The victim’s mental disability accounted for 0.7 percent of all reported hate crimes. 

Florida: Hate crimes are classified as crimes against persons or crimes against property. In 2021, there were 105 reported hate crimes committed against persons. These offenses against persons included simple assault, aggravated assault, intimidation, robbery, and murder.  

In the words of the FBI, a hate crime is “a regular felony like murderarson, or vandalism with an extra element of prejudice.”  

Hate speech vs hate crime. Americans must know the difference.  

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” –Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan 

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