Free Speech or Hate-Crime Laws: Can't Have Both

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council points out in his January 9 email that so-called “hate-crime” laws are having a chilling effect on free speech in Canada (BTW, aren’t all crimes “hate” crimes?).  Mark Steyn is under attack for writing some unflattering things about Islam.  Notice, the issue isn’t whether Mark’s factually correct about what he wrote, but whether he hurt feelings!  

The American and Canadian governments have several things in common, including, it appears, the pursuit of radical hate speech laws. As the U.S. braces for another round of hate crimes legislation this spring, our northern neighbors are already engaged in an all-out battle over free speech. The latest victim is popular author and columnist Mark Steyn, who wrote the best-seller America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. Although the book was published by an American company, excerpts that later appeared in the Canadian press have become the subject of investigation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The book, which contrasts Islamic values with those of the West, was considered “a misrepresentation” of the Muslim religion by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC). As a result of CIC’s complaint, Steyn finds himself at the center of a controversial debate over the limits of public expression. Using charges of “discrimination” as a means of silencing opposition, the CHRC’s investigation jeopardizes freedom in all of North America. During an interview with The Washington Times, Steyn said, “Offense is in the eye of the beholder. The commissions aren’t weighing facts but hurt feelings.” Ironically, when Christians or conservatives object to similar treatment, they usually find themselves on the losing side of the argument, or worse, completely overlooked. Unfortunately, this is just a preview of things to come if the U.S. House is successful when the battle over new federal hate crimes resumes. As Mark Steyn can attest, nothing less than our first freedoms are at stake.

America needs to understand something before we adopt hate crime laws here– we can either have the right to free speech or the right not to be offended, but we cannot have both.


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