Ham-Handed Approach to Free Speech; American Values Shouldn't Be Surrendered to Political Correctness

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Freedom of speech is under attack. It's more than just well-known repressors such as China and Cuba openly cracking down on the expressions of their people. Far more insidious is the assault that quietly takes place as the political-correctness police convert criticism of certain groups into grounds for arrest.

That happened last month to a 16-year-old boy in West Sussex, England, who allegedly threw pieces of ham at a mosque, causing real anguish and anxiety among followers. The United Kingdom's Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 condemns anyone who displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting vis-a-vis someone's race, nationality, or ethnicity. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006 threw religion into that mix, but limited it to threatening words or behavior and left out insulting, to the consternation of the bill's Labor Party sponsors.

In the United States, the First Amendment keeps hate-speech statutes at bay. The courts consistently have struck down attempts to impose speech codes, and not even a shift of the balance of power on the Supreme Court would change that, in the view of University of California, Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh. I've no reason to think new Obama appointees or for that matter the old Obama appointees would vote to restrict such speech. So it's pretty clearly protected, he told The Washington Times. That means Uncle Sam often needs to get creative when it wants to engage in speech control. …