Hate crime comes to America!

Which will win: the American tendency to make free speech absolute, or the globalization of human rights and the tendency to make tolerance and inclusiveness greater absolutes? I’ve thought the latter will win, and we’ll end up with the anti-“hate” censorship you find in Canada and Europe. A recent case seems to point that way. A 16-year-old girl has been charged with felony hate crime in a Chicago suburb for making fliers with derogatory statements about homosexuality and distributing them at a local high school. The authorities have signaled their view of the seriousness of the conduct not only by the felony charge but by holding the girl without bail at a juvenile detention center for more than two weeks, shackling her ankles in court, forcing her to wear an electronic ankle device, and monitoring her phone calls and Internet use. While the facts aren’t altogether clear, it appears that “the fliers had a photograph of two males kissing and included inflammatory words … Both males attend the school and one of them was identified in the photo.” There’s no suggestion what the inflammatory words were, but authorities allege that the fliers were meant “to incite a breach of peace or cause injury to the person or persons the message was directed against.” That sounds like pro forma statutory language, and it’s unclear what if anything it means. For all I know “cause injury” could include personal discomfort.

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