Q: Are verbal slurs and insults a hate crime?
A: Offenders often use racial, religious or anti-gay slurs during a crime. But the use of verbal slurs alone is rarely a crime unless they threaten, harm or intimidate. The First Amendment protects most verbal and written expression, even when it is hateful or offensive. But, a criminal act is not protected just because speech is involved. Also, the use of slurs or other hateful language may violate certain civil laws concerning discrimination in employment, housing, education or public accommodations.