When I saw this story in the Oregonian, I thought the journalist had taken some liberties with the story. He wrote:
Noting a recent spate of anti-Semitic “hate incidents” in the Portland area, Democratic U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have introduced legislation to clamp down on hate speech and prejudice-fueled attacks.
But then I found similar wording on Senator Jeff Merkley’s official website:
Washington, D.C. – Following a national surge in hate crimes, Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined Democratic legislators in the House and Senate to introduce legislation that would strengthen federal laws combatting hate speech, threats and attacks….
“Americans of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds have time and again spoken out to warn that hateful rhetoric fuels and emboldens a culture of intimidation and violence,” Wyden said. “That truth proved out yet again in the recent election cycle, which was characterized by animosity toward racial, ethnic and religious groups. As Americans, we must stand up against harassment, intimidation and attacks on people in Oregon and across this country based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and other personal characteristics.”
I’m not an attorney, but I’m fairly certain that there are already laws on the books against incitement to violence, so I don’t think he’s talking about that. There have been attempts to criminalize “hate speech“:
Since the 1980s, a number of laws have been passed that attempt to regulate or ban “hate speech,” which is defined as utterances, displays, or expressions of racial, religious, or sexual bias. The U.S. Supreme Court has generally invalidated such laws on the ground that they infringe First Amendment rights. In R.A.V. v. City ofSt. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 112 S. Ct.2538, 120 L. Ed. 2d 305 (1992), the Court invalidated the city of St. Paul’s hate-crime ordinance, ruling that it unconstitutionally infringed free speech. The defendant in that case had been prosecuted for burning a cross on the lawn of an African-American family’s residence.
As Leftists love to say, “history matters,” and the history of attacks against “hate-speech” has been almost exclusively out of concern for those who are not white, straight males. Rarely are bias crimes prosecuted as such if the victim is not of a “protected group,” and one of the main organizations that promotes the concept of “hate speech” as a quasi-crime is the SPLC (cited in Merkley’s website).
Perhaps the senators can be forgiven for being unaware of the true nature of the SPLC, but they should certainly have been aware of the contents of the Constitution, which they made an oath to uphold upon assuming office. Freedom of speech is, arguably, the most precious thing that sets the United States apart from most of the rest of the world. Just recently, the United States accepted the asylum request of a teen blogger from Singapore. He had served jail time there for criticizing the government, and for “wounding the religious feelings” of Christians and Muslims.
It wouldn’t take a great leap of imagination to define the teen blogger’s words as “hate speech.” If Wyden and Merkley have their way, which country would grant asylum to American bloggers accused of “hate speech?”