Leading Against White Supremacy Act of 2023: A Threat to the First Amendment?

Last week, the Leading Against White Supremacy Act of 2023 was introduced in the House and has caused alarm among Republicans who believe it would be a violation of the First Amendment.

Sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, the bill would make it a federal crime to not only commit a crime that is inspired by white supremacy, but also to post something on social media that promotes white supremacist views if someone else then sees it and commits a crime.

George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote in a blog post that the bill is a “criminal hate speech law that would violate core principles of the First Amendment,” and that “the accused does not actually have to support or conspire in a crime.”

The bill also outlines the elements of “conspiracy to engage in white supremacy inspired hate crime,” which is normally a crime that requires two or more people working together toward the commission of a crime, but this bill only requires one person to actually be involved in the crime, if another person “published material advancing white supremacy, white supremacist ideology, antagonism based on “replacement theory”, or hate speech that vilifies or is otherwise directed against any non-White person or group[.]”

Fox News Digital reached out to Jackson Lee’s office for clarification on the bill, but they did not immediately respond.

Turley also criticized the bill’s use of the “reasonable person” standard, which says that a published message would satisfy the bill if a reasonable person would find that it could motivate someone with a predisposition or susceptibility to act.

Turley said that this is a “flagrantly unconstitutional” use of the standard and warns that while the bill is highly unlikely to pass, it is reminiscent of laws like those in the United Kingdom under which someone was arrested for silently praying near an abortion clinic and another was convicted and sentenced to four years for “toxic ideology” when he had weapons as well as SS and KKK memorabilia in his bedroom.

Turley believes that the very idea that a bill like this would be introduced in the first place is evidence of an “erosion of free speech values” like what is happening in other parts of the world and Republicans are warning that this bill is just another example of Democrats trying to silence conservative voices.