Defining ‘Acceptable’ Free Speech

Ryan Hite, Jordan Henry, John and Andy Schlafly
10-25-2017

Maryland Democrat Congressman Anthony Brown announced plans this summer for a bill that would fight hate speech and hate crimes on college campuses. How, you might ask? According to Congressman Brown, this bill would require public colleges and universities to have programs and initiatives that would define for students “What is acceptable speech and what is not acceptable speech.”

To “take away any excuse,” Brown added, for institutions to not implement these new programs, the government would give out grants and also withhold federal funds! That’s right – this proposal would call for withholding federal funds from any public college or university that has not proven to the Secretary of Education that it has “adopted and implemented a program to prevent and adequately respond to hate crimes.” Not that many months ago, Democrats cried foul at Trump’s threat to pull funding from UC Berkeley over rioting.

Congressman Brown discussed this new proposal during a talk at the University of Maryland – which supports these new regulations. UMD President Wallace Loh claimed that “fighting words” and rhetoric that might incite violence are incorrectly protected by past Supreme Court rulings. “The problem – in my view,” Loh said, “is that the term ‘fighting words’ has been interpreted so narrowly it has to be an immediate threat of violence.” Loh also said that over the course of this coming school year, school officials will review policies regarding hate speech and possibly institute punishments for such speech.

UMD College Republicans, however, aren’t letting this discussion be one-sided. Steve Clark, President of the UMD CRs, said that silencing supposed hate speech often leads to silencing someone simply because of their politics. Clark noted, “The term ‘hate speech’ is very broad, and if this bill were to pass, it could lead down a slippery slope where the majority gets to control the speech of the minority.”

He continued: “The government should never have the power to silence speech, even speech that is widely condemned. The answer to combating ‘hate speech’ is to fight back with more speech.”

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