This is a strange one.
In the following Philly.com story, it's hard to tell if we are dealing with with an ordinary advocacy journalism, or an outbreak of religion-specific "Kellerism" (click here for background), or maybe a case of a sloppy journalist, or two, not being specific enough in noting the origin of a particularly loaded phrase -- "hate speech."
As a former GetReligionista said, when sending in the URL for this one:
Did the judge call it "hate speech" or is the reporter deciding/siding with one side? I honestly can't tell...
Me neither, to be blunt. So here is the top of the story:
A controversial group of black street preachers who spew hate speech at whites, Asians, gays, women and some blacks they find objectionable, has a right to continue preaching, the state Superior Court has ruled.
The Oct. 14 decision affirmed Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler's ruling from July 2013, and is another blow to the Shops at Liberty Place, which sued the preachers.
Operating under the name Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, the preachers since 2012 have held semi-regular Friday-afternoon demonstrations on the public sidewalk at 16th and Chestnut streets, which is near the main entrance to the Center City retail complex. During these demonstrations, Israelite members stand on a makeshift stage espousing their religious beliefs and denouncing those they don't like.
Note the lack of quotation marks around the actual term "hate speech."
Yes, it is hard to know if this term is being used on connection with an actual civic ordinance -- a "hate speech" law, for example -- which would mean that it would have legal content (which could be cited in the story, hint, hint). Then again, perhaps the reporter is simply improvising?
It does help that the story lets readers -- using material that is inside quote marks -- hear what some of these activists are saying.
"May the white man die today. May the Chinese man die today. May the east Indian man die today," one Israelite member said during a demonstration.
In its lawsuit, lawyers for Liberty Place stated that the demonstrations constitute a nuisance and trespassing because passersby stand on Liberty Place property to watch and listen.
So we have a clash between commerce and the First Amendment. That part of the story makes sense.
What is missing?
Of course, it's the religion ghost. What is missing is any sense of what the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge is or what its leaders believe. If they hate people, why is that the case? What do they believe? If they are "preachers," then why are they preaching what they are preaching? Are they secularists? Are they heretical Christians?
In other words, do these "preachers" have a story? It may be a very ugly story, but I bet there is a story in there somewhere. First Amendment cases are about words, but they are also about people.
Yes, and who actually used the term "hate speech"?