- 法政論叢 (ISSN:03865266)
- vol.40, no.2, pp.149-167, 2004
In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an ordinance banning "fighting words", including cross-burning and the display of swastika, that insulted others or provoked violence "on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender." In R.A.V. v. St. Paul, the Court stated that the ordinance impermissibly discriminated against unpopular topics within the category of proscribable speech and thus violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Although the Court acknowledged that combating racism was in the city's interest, it concluded that the city could not advance that interest by singling out unfavorable speech for punishment and declared the ordinance unconstitutional. In 1993, however, the Court upheld a Wisconsin penalty-enhancement law in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, declaring that the statute only penalized the criminal action, not the idea or speech. After R.A.V. and Mitchell, hate speech regulations of any form were considered impermissible while penalty enhancement laws and their variations were considered permissible, and the lower courts handled the cases before them accordingly. Cross-burning statutes, however, caused confusion, with five statutes being declared unconstitutional and two constitutional. In 2003 the Supreme Court upheld a Virginia statute banning cross-burning with the intent to threaten others in Virginia v. Black. The Court stated that the statute simply singled out the most terrifying type of threat of all types of threat, and therefore it did not discriminate against certain topics or viewpoints as the ordinance in R.A. V. did. This article analyzes these three federal high court cases along with seven state cases, and then compares R.A.V. and Black, and concludes that the two codes both banned controversial topic within proscribable categories and that the Court's handling of the two cases was inconsistent and inappropriate.