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Washington Governor Jay Inslee Poised to Kill Free Speech

Residents of the Evergreen State will soon be able to report their neighbors for expressing “bias.”

The governor of Washington is poised to sign a bill that ends free speech in certain counties – and the rest of the state probably sometime thereafter. Recently passed by the Washington state legislature, this measure creates a “bias incident hotline” to the State Attorney General’s Office. You read that right: American citizens in the northwestern state will soon be able to turn in their friends, neighbors, family members, or even strangers for not only physical “hate crimes” but also expressions of “bias.”

Substitute Senate Bill 5427 is now on the governor’s desk. Its supposed purpose is “supporting people who have been targeted or affected by hate crimes and bias incidents.” To that end, it establishes “a reporting hotline” and sets up a mechanism for “tracking hate crimes and bias incidents” that will be overseen by the Washington state attorney general’s office.

Criminalizing Free Speech?

To be clear, this isn’t merely about going after people who have allegedly committed physical “hate crimes.” It also targets reported instances of “a person’s hostile expression of animus toward another person, relating to the other person’s actual or perceived characteristics…” Literally, the hotline gives people a way of informing on others supposedly guilty of thought crimes – or, perhaps, speech crimes.

The bill, as passed, does make it clear that these “bias incidents” do not include “expressions of opposition or support for the actions or policies of a foreign or domestic government protected under free speech.” So, sure, one is still free to criticize an elected official, but express any opinion someone else decides is aimed at an individual because of that person’s “actual or perceived characteristics” and one could find oneself in the AG’s crosshairs.

It is easy to see, then, that any expression of opposition to, say, transgender ideology, would get someone reported to the hotline. Free speech – at least in the three Washington counties to which this program will initially be rolled out – appears under threat. If one cannot say anything that another person of a different race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation finds offensive in some way without being reported to the attorney general’s office, then one no longer enjoys the constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech.

Supporters of the bill might argue that this isn’t the US Congress making a law that restricts free speech, so it can’t be unconstitutional. The Washington Constitution, however, also protects free speech. Article I, Section 5: “Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right.”

Getting away from the sheer creepiness of people being reported to the authorities for merely expressing an opinion, Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen (R-Puyallup) succinctly pointed out the ominous flaw in this bill. “I think it’s difficult to put things into law which look at the intent of people rather than the actions that they take,” she said. Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) agrees, saying: “If a crime is a crime, if someone has been assaulted, if property has been damaged, then the proper recourse is to contact law enforcement and pursue a remedy, pursue justice in that way.”

A Dangerous Road

The potential scope of abuse with this new hotline is vast – especially since any identifying personal information provided to the hotline is “confidential and exempt from public inspection, copying, or disclosure.” Neither is that information to be included in any written reports. That means if anyone wanted to go after someone whose political opinions they don’t like, they could, conceivably, fabricate a “hate crime” or “bias incident” out of nothing. In fact, this new law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2025, exempts so much information from public disclosure that there will be no accountability at all to the people of the Evergreen State. After all, faking hate crimes has become common practice for the progressive left.

When any elected (or appointed) official says that restricting free speech is necessary in order to increase public safety, it is crucial for rational people to think about how far such restrictions will go. “Public safety” and “public health emergency” are deliberately vague terms that can be used to justify any violation of individual rights. Perhaps free speech isn’t a priority for them after all.

Read More From Graham J Noble

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