Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said on MSNBC Monday the First Amendment's protections on free speech don't apply to "hate speech."
Her comments came during a discussion about comments President Donald Trump made over the weekend, which host Katy Tur characterized as "essentially grouping white supremacists and counter-protesters together."
Cullors is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What she said
When asked to draw a distinction between the two groups that Trump seemingly put in the same bucket, Cullors said that white supremacists fight against equal rights, while groups like Black Lives Matter and the counter-protesters at this weekend's Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations fight for people's rights.
"Hate speech, which is what we're seeing coming out of white nationalists groups, is not protected under the First Amendment rights," Cullors said, explaining that's why it's important to "delineate" the distinctions.
What the courts say — and why she's wrong
Unlike most other modern countries, especially in Europe, hate speech is a protected right of Americans and the Supreme Court has continually upheld it.
In general, all speech is protected under the First Amendment. The exception: "fighting words," or speech that is lewd or obscene, libelous or profane.
In the 1942 Supreme Court case, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, the court established the "fighting words" doctrine. "Fighting words" are written or oral speech intended to create hate or incite violence. They are not protected because they neither contribute to the expression of ideas nor the search for truth.
Most recently, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld these principles in Matal v. Tam this summer. They ruled that the government cannot deny a trademark to a brand that people might find hateful or offensive. In this case, it applied to the Washington Redskins.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court's opinion: "The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate.'"
While groups like Black Lives Matter may have noble goals, such as erasing the unmistakable roots of racism in our society, it's deep progressive nature will inherently try to undermine constitutional protections extended to even the darkest segments of our society.
Neo-Nazis and their ideology must be rejected. However, they should still have the right to express themselves. Otherwise, we begin to erode the very principles that set America apart and have set it apart for centuries.