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Hate speech to be explored by international experts during debate at ASU law school
, Amelia Lewis Professor of Constitutional Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at NYU School of Law, will debate an explosive topic, “Should the U.S. be more like Europe in its legal response to hate speech?” on Friday, Oct. 26, on ASU’s Tempe campus.
The debate will begin at noon in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. It will be followed by a reception and book signing in Armstrong’s Steptoe & Johnson Rotunda of Waldron’s new book,
The Harm in Hate Speech
. Free tickets to the public event are available at
Waldron and Weinstein, internationally recognized experts on the law and philosophy of free speech, will address their conflicting ideas on hate speech in America and how hate speech relates to the First Amendment.
The Harm in Hate Speech
(Harvard University Press) is based on a series of Holmes Lectures that he presented at Harvard Law School. Weinstein’s book,
Hate Speech, Pornography and the Radical Attack on the Free Speech Doctrine
(Westview Press), is a scholarly analysis that also provides the public the tools necessary to knowledgably participate in discourse about free speech.
In a recent interview on a New York news station, Waldron said hate speech among different groups and communities has been stirred up, exaggerated and exploited by various speakers hiding behind absolutist views of the First Amendment. He pointed out how many European nations such as Great Britain have already adopted regulations on public use of hate speech, which can result in fines and even jail time.
“Hate speech aims to make members of vulnerable minorities feel that they are less than human, and should be treated as such,” Waldron said in the interview with journalist Dominic Carter.
According to Waldron’s book, defamation of a minority group, through hate speech, undermines a public good that can and should be protected: the basic assurance of inclusion in society for all members.
“I think the U.S. has a very strong commitment to the freedom of speech, which is good, but we (as a nation) already do regulate many things” pertaining to the First Amendment, Waldron said.
Weinstein, however, cautioned against attempts to suppress the public dissemination of hateful ideas. He cited the experience in this country of trying to suppress extreme speech of various forms, not only hate speech but advocacy by Communists of violent overthrow of the United States government, and disloyal and virulent anti-war speech which the government claimed interfered with this country’s war effort.
The proposition that a speaker may be excluded from participating in public dialogue because others find their ideas insulting, dangerous or even harmful is inconsistent with the right to participate in a democratic society, according to Weinstein.
“I think our experience with free speech has helped us decide a broader, more robust debate is best,” he said. “Over time, we have a tradition of letting groups talk it out, and this tends to work.
“Free speech has, on the whole, served minorities well over the years,” he said.
Weinstein warned against using balancing tests to characterize hate speech by arguing that some of the minority opinions that gave way to majority thinking over time may have been considered radical or even hateful at first.
“There’s nothing wrong with new dominant narratives replacing old ones,” he said.
But the core of participatory democracy, Weinstein explained, requires that people must remain free to challenge those narratives with whichever words they choose.
In his recent interview, Waldron agreed with Weinstein to a certain extent, describing regulations on speech as “a slippery slope.”
“This is an area where great care is needed,” Waldron said. “We really need to make sure there are various exceptions and safe havens where people can say what they want to say, just not necessarily always in a public context.”
He said the government has a right to, and in many cases, already does condemn certain ideas. That is true especially if they harm the general well being of the public.
“We want to inspire some sort of peace and harmony, particularly among religious groups at the moment,” Waldron said.
The debate at the College of Law will be moderated by Peter de Marneffe, a professor of philosophy at ASU, who will be introduced by Daniel Rothenberg, Executive Director of the Center of Law and Global Affairs at the College of Law. The program is co-sponsored by the Center of Law and Global Affairs, the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, the ASU Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics and the ASU Campus Environment Team. The book signing will be handled by Changing Hands Bookstore of Tempe.