Laws in various countries
that restrict hate speech
Background of hate speech or hate propaganda laws:
These laws criminalize hatred in spoken or written form that attack
individuals who fall into one or more defined classes. As in the case of
hate-crime laws, these protected classes can include religion, race, sex, sexual
In many countries, religious writings and speech are given special exemptions
from these laws.
Countries differ greatly in their approach to
United States: Due to the almost absolute freedom of
speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, its citizens
are relatively free to engage in hate speech without the risk of being charged with a crime.
A person is not permitted to falsely yell "fire" in a crowded
theatre. They cannot threaten to assassinate the President. But they can
normally express hatred against persons of any race, religion, sexual
orientation, sex, political party, etc. with impunity. They can even advocate
against another religious group, as two fundamentalist Christian pastors did in Texas.
The United Kingdom, some of her ex-colonies like Canada
and Australia, and many counties
in Europe: These countries place some restrictions on freedom of speech. For
example, Canada's Criminal Code has two
sections covering what it calls "hate propaganda."
The first is Section 318 that criminalizes the promotion and advocacy of genocide. The
second is Section 319 that covers general hate speech. The latter has two
clauses exempting persons who deliver hate sermons, give hate speeches, write hate
material, etc. from a religious perspective. The list of protected groups was
increased in 2004 from four (color, race, religion and ethnic origin) to
five by adding sexual orientation. This gave equal protections to heterosexuals,
bisexuals and gays/lesbians.
Five years later, there has been only one conviction
of which we are aware
concerning hate propaganda in which the defendant claimed that his hate speech
was not a crime because it
was religiously-motivated. He was running for a seat in the House of Commons.
While attending an all-candidates night, he had advocated the mass murder/genocide of homosexuals. His
conviction was possible only because the judge rejected the defendant's claim
that his hate speech was religiously motivated. He received an 18 month
Sweden: This country takes a much tougher stand against
hate speech than the U.S. and Canada -- at least in theory. In 2002 a constitutional amendment was passed
criminalizing hate speech directed at many identified groups, including sexual
orientation. Unlike the Canadian law, this amendment did not contain a provision
exempting religious hate speech.
A Pentecostal pastor delivered an anti-gay and lesbian sermon in which he linked
homosexuality with bestiality, incest, and the sexual abuse of children. He
predicted that unless the people became more intolerant of sexual minorities,
God might cause a massive natural disaster that would kill hundreds of thousands
of Swedes. He was charged under the new law, and was convicted. His conviction
was subsequently overturned on appeal to the country's Supreme
Hate speech legislation in:
Associated section in this web site:
Hate-crime laws to protect persons of
all sexual orientations from violence.
Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Last updated 2008-JUL-26
Author: Bruce A Robinson