1960 January 16

DOJ: Nazi “Hate Speech” Protected by First Amendment


The Justice Department on this day informed the Jewish Labor Committee that the use of the Swastika as a political symbol by a man in Virginia was a protected form of expression under the First Amendment. The Jewish Labor Committee had complained to the DOJ that the Nazi symbol “tended to incite breaches of the peace.” In a letter, the DOJ replied that “Despite the reprehensible nature” of some of the material, there was no evidence of a violation of any specific federal law.

The DOJ letter added, however, that the matter was being referred to the Department of Defense because the individual was an officer in the Naval Reserve. That person, in fact, was George Lincoln Rockwell, who emerged as the leading American Nazi in the 1960s and was involved in a number of controversial incidents.

Read: Samuel Walker, Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy (1994)

Read about the 1970s Skokie controversy: Philippa Strum, When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for the Thought We Hate (1999)

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