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Freedom of Speech Does Not Mean Freedom of Hate

The first Amendment of the United States of America’s constitution, in layman's terms, states that the government has no right to establish a set religion, nor do they have the right to take away someone’s freedom of speech, press, or assembly. However, the part of this Amendment that gets tossed around more is the freedom of speech.I often hear people say they are ‘allowed to have an opinion’ and they have ‘freedom of speech’ because they are in America. While this is true, since it is stated in the constitution, people seem to believe their freedom of speech also means they have the right to say whatever they want without fear or repercussions. This is not the case.According to law, it is illegal for me to go into a movie theater and shout “fire” when there is no fire. While I have freedom of speech to say whatever I want, shouting “fire” in a public place like that could (and will) cause chaos and harm to the other movie goers. While this is a well known fact that you can’t just yell “fire” for no reason people believe that saying hate speech is not related to this situation at all. However, it is the same thing!

Hate speech causes mental harm to those who are on the receiving end of the slurs. If someone hears enough hate speech their physical well-being can be harmed as well. Some people have even killed themselves over hate speech. Thus, while the hater has a constitutional right to say their opinions, that victim also had the constitutional right to live. It is sad that people believe their opinions matter more than someone’s life or well-being.

People nowadays have to remember that the U.S constitution was written in a different time. The right to freedom of speech that the First Amendment refers to is about the freedom to say your opinions about the government without fear of being arrested. This is coming after a time when saying a negative opinion about the British king would have landed someone in jail. To break away from the harsh treatments of British law, the Founding Fathers gave the right to freedom of speech meaning say what you want about the government without fear of being jailed. The constitutional right was not given so that people could go around calling people ‘sluts’, ‘fag’, or the n-word just because they have negative opinions about certain groups of people.

Modern Americans need to reevaluate the U.S constitution and realize that many of the older Amendments, such as the first one, have different intended meanings . People have to understand that America was not as well-diverse then as it is now. Nor were many groups given rights as they are now, such as women, black Americans, Native Americans, Latinx, non-Christians or those within the LGBTQ+ community. 

People also have to realize that the technology now is far different than anything they had in the 1700s. What someone says,or Tweets can be heard or seen by millions of people. So, while the government (by law) cannot touch you for saying something hateful, that doesn’t mean negative consequences won’t be received. It is important for everyone to have the right to their opinions. However, if your opinion is hateful to anyone else, then keep it to yourself. If you can’t, then just remember that everyone else has freedom of speech to call you out for being a rude, hateful, individual or group.

Kaitlin McElroy

Kutztown '21

I am an English major with two minors (History, and Women's and Gender Studies). I love books, writing, and discovering new things.
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