Free speech is the right to express your opinions out loud, in public or private, in print, by mail, or online. It is essential to democracy, and it is the greatest deterrent to tyranny. The United States is unique in protecting a full right of free political speech under the First Amendment.
Free speech is threatened by hate speech codes which define certain types of statements as hate crimes. While supposedly protecting vulnerable groups (such as "questioning gay teens") from verbal abuse, rules and laws provide no clear distinction between "hurtful" speech and simply expressing one's opinion. Religious people, accordingly, worry that hate crimes legislation in America will be used to stop preachers and others from saying out loud or in print that homosexuality is evil.
Not every form of expression is protected as free speech. For example, statements connected with unlawful conduct are typically illegal.