ERIE, Pa. — Should people be protected from losing their jobs over offensive or unpopular speech?
Erie resident Melanie Henderson said, “I think they should lose their job, because we don’t need that discrepancy in our town. We have enough drama here and violence here. We don’t need more added.”
Cindy Snyder of Erie disagreed, saying, “Your employment shouldn’t matter. That’s your job, but it is your personal life. You do have a right to protest.”
Whether or not people like the ideology, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment.
“Those rights are absolutely essential for every single citizen in the United States and the Supreme Court and other federal have been very protective of those rights,” said Joseph Morris, Ph.D., director of the Center for Applied Politics at Mercyhurst University.
That protection is not universal, according to Morris.
“What’s really critical to understand is that the first amendment provides protections from government, it doesn’t necessarily provide protections from private corporations,” he said.
Community leaders said people need to both understand each other and the impact of their actions.
Daniel Doubet, executive director of Keystone Progress said, “It is perfectly acceptable for their to be social and economic consequences in the private arena for someone who holds an extraordinary extreme opinion like being a Nazi.”
Marcus Atkinson, host of “Next” on WQLN-FM and “Erie Now” on WQLN-TV, said, “It’s kind of a get over it type feeling. And I think it says that we’ve just ignored the feelings of one another other for far too long and now it’s all bubbling up to the surface.