PROF. JENKINS: 'Hate speech' is free speech

Opinions can indeed be mean-spirited, but facts are by definition neutral. Simply pointing out something undeniably true is not, in itself, an expression of hatred.

Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins’ opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer.


One of the main differences between conservatives and leftists today is that the former take a constitutional view of speech, recognizing virtually no limits on the political variety. 

The latter, on the other hand, want to impose harsh new restrictions on any speech they don’t like—particularly the political kind—by calling it “hate speech,” which they seem to believe, mistakenly, is not protected. 

In most cases, the speech in question is not even hateful. 

A classic example comes to us from the University of Houston, where Daily Wire host Matt Walsh recently screened his controversial, “anti-trans” documentary “What Is a Woman?”.  A student protester told Houston’s ABC affiliate, Channel 13, “this is not a free speech issue, but rather a hate speech…issue.”   

Clearly, like most people on the Left, that student does not understand the First Amendment, which makes no exceptions for “hate speech.” Even if he’s right, even if Walsh’s speech is actually hateful, it is still protected, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled.  

One recent case, Matal v. Tam (2017), involved an Asian-American rock band, The Slants, who had been denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent Office because their name “disparages” Asians.  

[RELATED: Socialists students warn against tonight’s Matt Walsh appearance]

Justice Alito, writing for the Court, said the government’s position “violates the First Amendment” because the name represents “private speech, not government speech.”  

Another problem with the idea of “hate speech” is that the term itself is ambiguous and subjective. Hateful of what? To whom? Does opposing “transgender” ideology qualify?  

In a word, no. To be genuinely hateful, speech must meet three basic criteria.  

First, it must actually express hatred. Simply disagreeing with someone or disapproving of their actions isn’t enough. Indeed, that’s one of the left’s biggest lies: If you believe a person’s behavior is wrong, you must hate them.  

What utter nonsense. Over the years I have disapproved of a lot of people’s behavior, including my own children’s at times. That doesn’t mean I love them any less.  

Second, speech that is truly hateful must be aimed at an individual or group, not an idea.  

Like Walsh, I hate “trans” ideology. I believe it’s rooted in lies, inimical to reality, and incredibly destructive. Yet I’ve met several self-proclaimed “trans” people, and I don’t hate any of them. A couple I actually consider friends.  

[RELATED: UMD students claim Matt Walsh’s rhetoric ‘gets us killed’]

Finally, in order to qualify as hateful, speech must reflect an opinion, not state a fact.  

Opinions can indeed be mean-spirited, but facts are by definition neutral. Simply pointing out something undeniably true is not, in itself, an expression of hatred.  

Thus, it’s not “hate speech” to say—as Walsh and others are saying—that there are only two biological sexes: Extremely rare exceptions aside, you can either have an X and a Y chromosome, or you can have two X’s. That is a well-established scientific fact.  

But even if it WERE “hate speech,” that wouldn’t matter. Here in the United States of America, we can still say it, as our Constitution explicitly provides and our highest Court has affirmed. 

That’s what free speech is.  


Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.