20 February 2009

Free speech vs. controlling hate speech

Those of you in Utah are probably well-aware of the many controversies involving Senator Chris Buttars. He nicely illustrates the inherent fight between free speech and stopping hate speech.

His latest escapade came in an interview that aired earlier this week. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Buttars
...called the gay-rights movement "probably the greatest threat to America," likened gay activists to Muslim radicals and dubbed same-sex relationships "abominations."

Furthermore, speaking about the gay-rights movement he said "It's the beginning of the end... Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide."

Making this even more embarrassing for me is that Buttars lives in and represents the city of West Jordan, where I grew up.

The bottom line here is that Buttars is a bigot. He's somewhat rare in that he's a very vocal and outspoken bigot, while most racists and other undesirables mainly keep to themselves in this day and age.

BUT this is not a reason for him to be forcibly removed from his seat or otherwise punished by the State.

Legally, as long as he's not inciting violence, he's doing nothing wrong. This is a sticky issue that has been reviewed by the Supreme Court more than once, and so far, the Court has decided to come down on the side of free speech.

I'm a fan of the idea of a "marketplace of ideas." Allow everyone their own voice, and if you hear someone who offends you or is otherwise a moron, use your voice to prove him wrong and show him for what he really is. I think the KKK is a horrible organization that has morally wrong ideals. But I won't fight to imprison a KKK member for speaking his thoughts.

In the case of Senator Buttars, allow the people to speak. If he is truly offensive to his own constituency, he will be voted out in the next election. He barely squeaked by in the 2008 election as it is.

But for a government authority to force him down would be wrong, in my opinion.

It is a difficult issue, but I believe in erring on the side of free speech above protecting people from the vaguely-defined and irregularly-applied "hate speech."


*Liese said...

Good call. I, too, am completely unimpressed with the man. However, I agree that since "words" are really all he's fighting with, people who disagree should do the same.

LaPaube said...

If it's bigotry to think that same-sex relationships are an abomination and that today's world is like Sodom and Gomorrah, then I guess I'm a bigot. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of what liberals are going to think of you. In the end, their judgments are temporary.