The First Amendment, Hate Speech, and Religion

By: Dr. John E. Warren

From time to time, it becomes necessary to remind some of us of what the freedom of speech provision of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution actually says while addressing the issue of “hate speech” and the idea of religious freedom.

The First Amendment to the Constitution actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, abridging the freedom of speech. Or of the press, or the right of the people, peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

“Shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion.” This means that there shall be no state religion in this country. Hence, all the religions of the world are found in the United States of America. It also means that you are freed to have no religion. It does not mean you have a right to prohibit the faith or practices of another person’s religion. The phrase “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” means Muslim, Hindu, or any other religion has a right to be practiced in this country without inference from those of a different faith.

“Congress shall make no laws abridging the freedom of speech.” This means Congress can not make laws limiting or stopping one’s freedom of speech. It does not mean that this freedom is without limits. It has long been held that the freedom of speech clause does not carry with it the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre where such a shout could cause death or harm. We may have the right to say what we want to or about another person, but that right carries with it consequences, including libel, defamation, and damages for pain and suffering based on the harm caused either physically or emotionally. Hate speech falls within this category because such speech can cause pain, suffering, and, in some cases, even death.

So while Congress can make no laws “abridging” or limiting one’s speech, it has been established that the freedom of speech is not without limits, which includes harm to others. Clearly, there are limits on the freedom of the press.

This means that freedom of speech does not include the right to use offensive language clearly aimed at one’s ethnicity or gender and is, therefore, deemed hate speech.

So it was “hate speech” when members of the public speaking, before the County Board of Supervisors, called the African American Public Health Officer a name associated with a racial stereotype. It was not an act of “hate speech” when a member of the County’s Human Relations Commission abstained from a vote that he disagreed with on the basis of his religious belief as a Pastor. When pressed for a reason for his abstention, he said that it was based upon scripture, which, he quoted, called the conduct in question an “abomination.” This was not “hate speech” but an exercise of his right to a religious belief covered by the First Amendment.

All of us have a duty to understand these First Amendment freedoms and how to apply them without harm and offense, which was the intent from the very beginning language by our Founders. Hopefully, this will help some of us at a very important time with our fragile democracy.

Latest Articles


Search our archive of past issues Receive our Latest Updates
* indicates required

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

Scroll to Top