Is hate speech a thought crime

Thought Crimes in History [closed]

Has there ever been a law anywhere in history that criminalizes certain thoughts? I mean a law that says thinking certain thoughts is illegal. I don't mean a law that says expressing certain thoughts is illegal. I don't mean a law that criminalizes certain actions that are accompanied by certain thoughts. I mean a law that says just thinking about certain thoughts is illegal.

The next one I can find is the Treason Act 1351 which is still in force in the UK today. This criminalizes compassing or imagining the death of the king. However, the law goes on to state that it is necessary that the perpetrator be informed of the overt act so that this is not a pure thought crime.

I am not counting the laws of religious bodies, just the laws of states.

Denis de Bernardy

Hate speech is criminalized in most parts of Western Europe. Flag desecration is common in many countries. Lèse-Majesté is a couple of others.

Mark C. Wallace ♦


@DenisdeBernardy, hate speech requires a spoken or written word, not just the thought.

Daniel Hill

Thank you, Mark Wallace, but I can't see a single factual example on the Wikipedia page you linked to. Heresy, for example, has always required a spoken or written word. No one has ever been charged with unspoken heresy.

Steve Bird

Laws are usually written with enforcement in mind, and it is difficult to see how a “pure thought crime” (that is, one with no external expression) can be adequately identified and prosecuted.


In many jurisdictions, the State of mind of the perpetrator affect the punishment of a crime, or even if an act constitutes a crime. The old Latin term is Mens Rea.

Killing for self-defense is a good example. It is not a crime if the perpetrator acted in the genuine belief that he or she was attacked, but it is a crime if the perpetrator did not believe it. Of course, the court cannot read minds, so it will look at "reasonable people" standards or other evidence to determine the state of mind. Still the intention is Actions to punish for the wrong motives.

Felix Goldberg

Certainly not what OP was up to, but still an interesting perspective. +1

Daniel Hill

Thank you, but what I was looking for was a law against pure thinking, not against thoughts mixed with actions.