Words can certainly be hurtful and can, at times, lead to confrontation and even violence. Restricting the capacity to speak can also be hurtful as it closes off opportunities for dialogue and prevents the open exchange of ideas that can encourage greater understanding. As noted by Jonathan Rauch, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, “…painful though hate speech may be for individual members of minorities or other targeted groups, its toleration is to their great collective benefit, because in a climate of free intellectual exchange hateful and bigoted ideas are refuted and discredited, not merely suppressed.”

Yet we do accept some limits on speech. And who has not been troubled by instances where hatred expressed in words has been directed at ourselves or even at ideals we cherish? There are benefits and there are risks when free expression is allowed. The question is, How do we determine what to allow and what to restrict?

That very question will be the topic of conversation on November 5 when the Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia holds the event, “Free Speech/Hate Speech: Where Do We Draw the Lines?” At the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear three varied points of view in answer to the question and have the opportunity for dialogue with our panelists.

From its inception, the Ethical Society has aimed to provide a place where people can gather to share concerns and work together to seek avenues for greater understanding, enlightenment, and cooperation toward the common good. The event on November 5 is fully in line with that aim and the Ethical Society appreciates the opportunity to host the event and looks forward to an engaging and inspiring evening. More information about the event