Robert A Kahn Associate Professor University of St. Thomas School of Law, United States

Robert A Kahn has been teaching at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 2007. Since 2010 he has been an Associate Professor. He received a JD degree from New York University School of Law in 1989, and a PhD degree in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Maryland in 2000. He was a Fellow at the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies during the 1996–1997 academic year. His principal research focuses on hate speech regulation with an emphasis on Holocaust denial, and hate speech targeting Muslims. He is the author of Holocaust Denial and the Law: A Comparative Study (Palgrave 2004) as well as several shorter pieces appearing in law reviews and as book chapters. He has presented his work at conferences in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Offensive symbols and hate speech law: Where to draw the line? An American perspective

One of the thorniest areas of hate speech regulation involves symbols. Does speech that denigrates a symbol (or in the case of Holocaust denial, a historical experience) also denigrate the human dignity of an ethnic, racial or religious group associated with the symbol in a way that justifies hate speech regulation?  In my talk, I explore different answers to this question, ranging from the view that speech denigrating a symbol always harms the group associated with it, to the position that offense to symbols is never hate speech.  In the paper, I settle on a middle ground, one drawn from American case law on cross burning: offense to symbols only rises to hate speech when there are aggravating circumstances that show an intent to harm the human dignity of a group associated with the symbol.