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Author: Hate-Speech Laws are 'Fostering Hatred'

WASHINGTON – Author Paul Coleman said anti-discrimination laws in the United States are designed to control an individual’s “conscience” and would ultimately threaten First Amendment rights.

“They do grow from the same tree so in terms of our protection of speech, of conscience, and of associational rights, all of these are part of the same package and the threats to these different freedoms are all of a similar nature as well. What they are about is really state control and state sanctioning, so in hate-speech laws the state is seeking to sanction what we can and cannot say,” said Coleman, author of Censored – How European Hate Speech Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

“In associational laws, the state is hoping to regulate and control and sanction who we can and cannot meet with and these anti-discrimination laws — which mostly hinge on the issue of conscience — the state is seeking to control and sanction our conscience and what we can and cannot decide. Both the freedoms are connected and the threats to those freedoms are connected as well, and I think it’s unlikely to see just one of those areas affected,” he added.

In Europe, Coleman said, there are “major problems” with state censorship, state-regulated churches and the state seeking to act as parents in some instances. In the U.S. context, Coleman doubts anti-discrimination laws would not have an impact on First Amendment rights.

“If the anti-discrimination threat is coming, and I think it most certainly is, then I doubt it will come alone. And I think that what we will see here is some of these other areas also affected in the same way, and my understanding is that the U.S. has been protected from some of these speech restrictions because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s understanding of free speech over the last century -- but I would say that position is not necessarily robust,” he said.

Coleman, deputy director of ADF International, a Christian legal organization, said the level of “judicial activism” in the U.S. is an “incredibly strong” threat to the First Amendment and free speech in particular.

“From my outsider perspective, the level of judicial activism and the ability for judges to make law and to override law is to such a level here that even with the First Amendment protections you enjoy and you have, I still think the threat to the First Amendment and free speech is incredibly strong,” he said.