I recently had occasion to speak to some 7th and 8th graders about some of the constitutional rules concerning the freedom of speech. One thing that struck me in talking to them is the comparative receptivity of this group to “hate speech” restrictions. Unlike many other countries, the United States has, thus far, resisted regulating such speech because of its assertedly “hateful” or “harmful” qualities. Here’s an interesting looking new study of the relationship of hate speech and religion, an area that is receiving new scholarly interest in light of increasing calls for government speech restrictions that are deemed “hateful”–Putting Faith in Hate: When Religion is the Source or Target of Hate Speech (CUP) by Richard Moon.
To allow or restrict hate speech is a hotly debated issue in many societies. While the right to freedom of speech is fundamental to liberal democracies, most countries have accepted that hate speech causes significant harm and ought to be regulated. Richard Moon examines the application of hate speech laws when religion is either the source or target of such speech. Moon describes the various legal restrictions on hate speech, religious insult, and blasphemy in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, and uses cases from different jurisdictions to illustrate the particular challenges raised by religious hate speech. The issues addressed are highly topical: speech that attacks religious communities, specifically anti-Muslim rhetoric, and hateful speech that is based on religious doctrine or scripture, such as anti-gay speech. The book draws on a rich understanding of freedom of expression, the harms of hate speech, and the role of religion in public life.