Hate speech versus a hate crime

Westboro protest sparks question as to how far the First Amendment should protect inflammatory speech.


Photo courtesy of Allyssa Stevens

Gay Straight Alliance sponsor and Environmental Science teacher Clancey Livingston holds a sign of support while he looks upon the student counter-protestors -- lead by Student Body President, senior Parker Wilson -- as Westboro Baptist Church protests GSA and the LBGTQ+ community of Manhattan High. The protests took place just outside of MHS 7:10 to 7:40 the morning of Nov.1

Brianna Carmack, Opinions Editor

Hate speech. What is it? Is it a thing?

According to Merriam Webster, hate speech is speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people. Hate speech was also the hot topic of Manhattan High last Thursday when the Westboro Baptist Church protested outside of MHS, using their First Amendment right to speak against the LGBTQ community.

Although they peacefully assembled their protest, there are still major debates in today’s society about inflammatory speech. How far is too far?

It is the consensus of The Mentor editorial board that regardless of the topic, there should be regulations on what kind of language can be used when considering inflammatory speech.

We acknowledge that some people believe that hate speech isn’t real and is over-exaggerated, but the general agreement is that there should be regulations for inflammatory speech.

WBC came for a reason. Manhattan High School was voted the top LGBTQ friendly community in all of Kansas. Considering that our school has its own separate club for the LGBTQ community, Gay-Straight Alliance, it quickly became a target for WBC.

There is such a thing as hate speech in the sense that, people are negatively sayings things that about an entire group of people, such as by race, gender, sexual orientation or even organization. If everything that is being said is purely opinion-based, that had no factual backing, then that can be considered hate speech.

Even though Westboro still protested against the LGBTQ community with signs that were very controversial, they peacefully assembled their protest in a way that wasn’t violent. Back in 2016, The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, experienced a shooting due to the shooter’s strong beliefs against the LGBTQ community. If it came to this extent with Westboro, hate speech would have eventually turned into a hate crime where the First Amendment would not support that situation.

We’ve come to a point in America where issues such as targeting a specific culture or group of people is not as frequent as it used to be, but is still an important issue that impacts individuals every day. Not only does it create chaos in the community, but it also creates a hostile environment for the people being affected by the protests. It gets to a point where this type of behavior is on the line of abusing the First Amendment right.

Overall, even though the WBC displayed controversial messages, it is never good to fight the hate with hate. That is when it becomes chaotic and creates an unsafe environment. Remember, always treat hate with love. The more love involved, the better we can stop the hate.