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1 UCL Hum. Rts. Rev. 103 (2008)
Are Laws Proscribing Incitement to Religious Hatred Compatible with Freedom of Speech

handle is hein.journals/uncolhurire1 and id is 104 raw text is: Are Laws Proscribing Incitement to Religious Hatred
Compatible with Freedom of Speech?
Freedom of expression and religion are rightly viewed as two fundamental
cornerstones of any modern liberal democracy. Both represent vital
components in the realisation of personal autonomy, provide an important
basis for the determination of political structures and may ultimately
advance the Millian truth principle. Yet despite these shared utilities an
undoubted tension exists between the individual's expressive capacity to
disparage and denigrate the views of others and the right of religious
communities to manifest their beliefs. In an era where societies attempt to
embrace multiculturalism the conflict between these two values is of
particular resonance. It is with this tension in mind that this essay will seek
to analyse whether an incitement to religious hatred law can ever be
reconciled with the effective protection of free expression. In answering
this question, an examination of the guiding rationale justifying the need for
an incitement to religious hatred law will first be examined. Focus will then
turn to whether such laws can in theory be specifically tailored to ensure that
free speech values are not unduly sacrificed. Finally attention will centre on
the practical safeguards required to ensure an incitement law strikes the
appropriate balance between religious and expressive freedoms.
The Justification for Religious Hate Speech Restrictions
At its extremes, hate speech represents a particularly malicious form of
expression that causes direct psychological harm to its victims and incites
others to commit acts of violence against the targeted group.' The free
dissemination of ideas representing certain communities as inferior creates a
social climate that is conducive to the spread of xenophobia and racism.2
This can strip marginalised individuals of a sense of self-esteem and
undermine their ability to fully participate in a society where progress is
impeded by derogatory stereotypes and discrimination.3 An entrenchment
* David Patrick Norris wrote this article whilst reading for a Masters in Public Law and Human
Rights at UCL.
ST M. Massaro, 'Equality and Freedom of Expression: the Hate Speech Dilemma' (1991) 32 W
& May L Rev 211, 221.
2 A Tsesis, 'The Empirical Shortcomings of First Amendment Jurisprudence: A Historical
Perspective on the Power of Hate Speech' (2000) 40 Santa Clara L Rev 729, 740.
3 L Sumner, Hate Propaganda and Charter Rights in W Waluchow (ed), Free Expression: Essays in
Philosophy and Law (Clarendon Press Oxford 1994) 153-154.

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