Free speech advocates across the political spectrum should be concerned about the Anchorage Assembly’s effort to empower its newly formed Equity Committee to combat unwanted speech by members of the public.
As recently reported in the Watchman, the Equity Committee is determined to root out what it deems to be offensive “hate speech” during Assembly meetings.
While admitting that the First Amendment poses some legal difficulties, the hard-left committee members are hell bent on finding ways to harness government resources to publicly condemn and openly humiliate those who would dare to express opinions that run contrary to Anchorage’s leftist elites.
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At the heart of this effort is the term “hate speech,” which leftists use as justification to limit the articulation of certain ideas. The problem is that “hate speech” is a nebulous and largely undefined term.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never defined what constitutes hate speech, nor has it ruled that this speech is subject to less constitutional protections. In fact, the high court has done just the opposite. In 2020, it ruled: “[The claim that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend… strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.”
The fact that we are justifiably repulsed by certain ideas, does not justify government censorship of free speech. This is the slipperiest of slopes, and the Assembly has no business harnessing taxpayer-funded resources to discourage ambiguously defined speech that may run contrary to the powers that be.