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Q&A: A look at how the federal law regards hate speech

Editor: The fallacy of a “Living Constitution” and that COURTS redefine the meaning of the Constitution is the basis of nearly EVERY tyranny foisted on us in the current age.  If you accept this fallacy you have REJECTED our “Constitutional Republic” in favor of an OLIGRACHY, full on top down control of all American’s at every level by 9 non elected justices.

FILE – In this Oct. 28, 2009 file photo, President Barack Obama, reacts with the mother of Matthew Shepard, Judy Shepard, second left, and James Byrd Jr.’s sisters, Louvon Harris, left, and Betty Byrd Boatner, second right, during a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Incendiary rhetoric has seeped into 2016 presidential politics, surfaced in the public debate over accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S. and popped up repeatedly following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has expressed concern about the potential for an anti-Islam backlash similar to one that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and vowed that the Justice Department would punish “actions predicated on violent talk.”

“Advocates are certainly reporting to us an increased concern around incidents, threats and potential hate crimes that they’re bringing to our attention,” Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

But the spectrum of hateful expression is broad, encompassing acts that are clearly illegal — such as firebombing a mosque — as well as vague and distant threats that, while noxious, might well be protected by the First Amendment.

Establishing the line between protected speech and a federal hate crime can be challenging for prosecutors and courts and depends on the facts of each particular case. Here’s a look at how federal law treats hate speech:



The signature hate crime statute — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act — makes it illegal to physically harm someone based on their race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, among other characteristics.



To a large degree, yes. The First Amendment offers broad free speech protections and permits membership in organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, that espouse hateful ideologies.

But while the Constitution gives latitude to hate speech and offensive rhetoric, court decisions in the last century have carved out notable — though narrow — exceptions to free speech guarantees and authorized prosecution for language deemed to fall out of bounds.

Comments intended as specific and immediate threats brush up against those protections, regardless of a person’s race or religion. So do personal, face-to-face comments meant to incite imminent lawlessness, such as a riot.

A 1942 Supreme Court decision called Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire — which involved a Jehovah’s Witness who cursed at a city marshal, calling him a “damned fascist” — articulated a “fighting words” doctrine that restricted insults intended to provoke an “immediate breach of the peace.”



They certainly can be, but that depends on various factors. Determining what constitutes an actual threat — as opposed to a vague and far-off remark — is a tricky, fact-specific question.

In Virginia…

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


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