Viewpoint Absolutism and Hate Speech

Modern Law Review (2006)

31 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2019

See all articles by Eric Heinze

Eric Heinze

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Date Written: 2006


All Western European states currently prohibit various forms of racist, sexist, anti-religious, homophobic, or other intolerant speech. Yet hate speech bans generate pervasive indeterminacy and contradiction. It might be assumed that they are no different in that respect from other laws that are subject to vagueness, but are nonetheless socially necessary. This article, however, rejects that assumption. It is argued that hate speech bans’ internal contradictions are not merely ‘penumbral’, but are pervasive, and cannot be re-drafted to eliminate that defect. In contrast to traditional marketplace, peacekeeping or deontological theories, a coherence theory is proposed to suggest that Western European hate speech bans are inherently discriminatory, and should be abolished. It is further argued that post-World War II models of a European social welfare state, sometimes invoked to justify limits on unbridled liberalism, do not plausibly justify hate speech bans, and indeed provide grounds for expanding, rather than constraining, free speech.

Keywords: free speech, First Amendment, legal theory, human rights, civil rights, civil liberties

JEL Classification: Z19

Suggested Citation

Heinze, Eric, Viewpoint Absolutism and Hate Speech (2006). Modern Law Review (2006), Available at SSRN:

Eric Heinze (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

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