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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – House Democrats’ choice to represent their party on a Republican-led committee on politically-motivated abuse of power by the federal government claimed Thursday that the First Amendment does not apply to so-called “hate” speech, in remarks that reinforce rather than debunk Republican claims about the government’s disregard for freedom of expression.

On February 9, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held hearings summarizing “the politicization of the FBI and DOJ and attacks on American civil liberties,” including the Biden administration’s raid on and failed prosecution of pro-life activist Mark Houck, treatment of conservative parents protesting local school boards as potential terrorists, and encouragement of private social networks to take censorship actions, as well as allegations of severe bias and abuse of power from FBI whistleblowers.

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Del. Stacey Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands, announced February 2 that she had been chosen as Ranking Member, i.e., the top Democrat on the panel, declaring that she would take the opportunity to oppose what she called “Republican’s [sic] attempt to derail the federal government’s obligation to investigate and conduct due process on actions, organizations and individuals that threaten our republic and create an anti-democratic environment.”

In her opening remarks Thursday, Plaskett noted that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and other Republicans “continually use the moniker of ‘protecting free speech.’ That sounds good. I hope they all recognize that there is speech that is not constitutionally protected: racist, hate, incitement to violence.”

In fact, neither the First Amendment nor the body of jurisprudence surrounding it recognize an exception for speech deemed bigoted or otherwise hateful, and in fact until relatively recent years it was a point of bipartisan consensus that for freedom of speech to be durable, it must extend to the speech society deems most objectionable. To this day, the far-left American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) touts its 1978 defense of a Nazi group’s right to march through Skokie, Illinois as an example of its commitment to the principle.

Plaskett’s comments reflect a more European understanding of freedom of speech. Unlike in the United States, nations such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Finland have laws on the books allowing citizens to be prosecuted for “offensive” speech; efforts to enact such laws are also underway in Canada and Ireland, and have their share of advocates in America.

Among the issues with such an understanding is that, without a consensus on what constitutes “hateful,” it invariably results in the label falsely being applied to silence opposing views on contentious political and cultural issues, such as homosexuality and gender. Today, this problem most commonly manifests in public schools and social networks penalizing members for referring to gender-confused individuals with accurate pronouns rather than their preferred “identity.”

Plaskett is correct that speech is not necessarily protected if it “incites violence,” but that too is subject to a high threshold; to qualify, speech must be “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and [be] likely to incite or produce such action.” Democrats and liberal activists in recent years have attempted to link their opponents’ words to fringe violence, such as the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, in order to legally punish them.

Congressional Democrats have been largely dismissive of the aforementioned infringements on freedom of speech, suggesting that the Ranking Member’s views on the subject are, if not necessarily shared, at least not unwelcome within the party.