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July 24, 2017

Even Hateful Speech is Free

The story below appeared on VTDigger:

BURLINGTON — City officials say they discovered racist and anti-semitic graffiti, involving a swastika and epithet, in the bathroom at the Fletcher Free Library.

The graffiti has since been painted over and library staff are working with the Burlington Police Department on the police investigation into the graffiti, according to a news release.

“As library director at the Fletcher Free, I want to reassure our community that such acts will not be tolerated here, as they are not tolerated anywhere in Burlington,” said Mary Danko, library director, in a prepared statement.

“Our support of free speech does not translate into tolerance for hate speech,” she added.

In his own statement included in the news release, Mayor Miro Weinberger said, “Hate speech of any kind in Burlington is unacceptable. It undermines our work to be a welcoming and inclusive community for all, and threatens the diversity that enriches our community.”

This is the comment I posted:

As a Jew, I resent anti-Semitic speech. However, as an American I am appalled that the Library Director and the Mayor are apparently saying that speech can and should be regulated according to its content. The right to free speech in the Constitution is meaningless unless it protects ALL speech. There is no need to protect speech everyone agrees with.

Defacing public property is a crime and should be punished. Graffiti should be removed from public places whether its content is hateful or benign.

Years ago there were flag burnings in Burlington. Many people (including me) thought them obnoxious. But these were rightly protected as exercises of free speech.

A city with many residents who pride themselves on "resistance" should be the last place to allow a government official to say what speech is "acceptable". There is no place in America for regulating speech according to its content.

See also:

Don’t Ban Anti-Semitic Speech

Motives Are for Mysteries


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