This was originally published on Liberal America on December 10, 2016.
During this election cycle, we have heard many nasty things being thrown around. President-elect Trump had tweet-induced scandals almost every week. The whole country seemed divided. People were blocking and unfollowing each other on their Facebook feeds.
I have unfollowed family members myself.
We all have freedom of speech, but sometimes that freedom can dangerously cross into the area of hate speech. How do we decide where to draw the line?
What Does The Federal Law Say?Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said this about the topic back in 2015:
“Advocates are certainly reporting to us an increased concern around incidents, threats and potential hate crimes that they’re bringing to our attention.”
The hate crime statutes say that it is illegal to harm someone because of their race, religion, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation among others.
What Does The Constitution Say?The First Amendment doesn’t make a distinction between free speech and hate speech.
As The Washington Post reported:
“The same is true of the other narrow exceptions, such as for true threats of illegal conduct or incitement intended to and likely to produce imminent illegal conduct (i.e., illegal conduct in the next few hours or maybe days, as opposed to some illegal conduct some time in the future). Indeed, threatening to kill someone because he’s black (or white), or intentionally inciting someone to a likely and immediate attack on someone because he’s Muslim (or Christian or Jewish), can be made a crime. But this isn’t because it’s ‘hate speech;’ it’s because it’s illegal to make true threats and incite imminent crimes against anyone and for any reason, for instance, because they are police officers or capitalists or just someone who is sleeping with the speaker’s ex-girlfriend.”
Restrictions In SchoolsSchools have to enforce further restrictions on students. They usually don’t allow vulgar words that would normally be okay under freedom of speech rules. They also have anti-bullying rules, so students aren’t allowed to insult each other. Schools have to keep students from causing “disruptions” to other students or during class.
Regardless of where the issue is presented, we have to figure out where to draw the line between free and hate.
Last week, the 21st Century Cures Act, was approved by Congress. This could speed up development of new medications, which could really help mental health care. Many people who suffer from serious mental illnesses (myself include) rely on medication. I will likely be on medicine for the rest of my life.
This bill is the first major mental health reform since the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). This requires insurance companies to treat mental health care the same way that they would cover physical health care.
A mental health bill folded into the 21st Century Cures Act promises to "fix our broken mental health system." This act promises to help families who have trouble finding and paying for the mental health care their loved one needs.
The bill will require states to use 10 percent of their mental health budget for early intervention for people experiencing psychotic symptoms. The program, called coordinated specialty care, will help provide a team of therapists and psychiatrists to help with medicine and talk therapy for the patient. They also help provide education and support for the patient's family. It can help younger patients be able to keep their jobs.
The bill will also help:
"... Those suffering from mental illness in the criminal justice system can begin to recover and get the help they need instead of just getting sicker and sicker," Cornyn says. "This bill also encourages the creation of crisis intervention teams, so that our law enforcement officers and first responders can know how to de-escalate dangerous confrontations. This is about finding ways to help the mentally ill individual get help while keeping the community safe at the same time."
This bill could be a life-saver for patients and their families all over the country.