In the wake of last week’s Charleston church massacre, the NAACP is calling for the “vigorous prosecution” of hate groups, but Judge Andrew Napolitano told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Monday that such action would be in direct violation of the First Amendment.
The First Amendment was specifically designed to protect speech “we fear, hate and loathe,” Napolitano said on “The Kelly File.”
NAACP President Cornell William Brooks on Sunday called for “vigorous persecution” of hate groups, saying the government should dedicate itself to shutting down groups like those that inspired the racist beliefs of the Charleston church shooter.
“We have to allocate resources to address these hate groups and these hate crimes,” he told CBS. “We also need vigorous prosecution and vigorous investigation of these hate groups and the resources to do so.”
Napolitano disagreed, saying the First Amendment applies to everyone, including speech and expression that is purposefully hateful.
“Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of association, even if generated and defined by hatred, is protected, as long as that does not produce immediate lawless violence,” Napolitano said.
Only in extremely limited circumstances – such as speech that is intended to incite a riot – can the government legally apply censorship, according to Napolitano.
“Hatred is protected under the Constitution,” Napolitano said.
“The First Amendment comes with a lot of burdens,” Kelly responded. “But it offers so many freedoms that are so dear.”