Residents in Middleborough, Massachusetts voted Monday night, with a 183 to 50 majority, to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.
According to the news reports, “Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.”
Duphily, who runs an auto parts store, is among the downtown merchants who wanted take a stand against the kind of swearing that can make customers uncomfortable.
"They'll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language. It's just so inappropriate," she said.
The measure could raise questions about First Amendment rights, but state law does allow towns to enforce local laws that give police the power to arrest anyone who "addresses another person with profane or obscene language" in a public place.
Matthew Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.
What do you think?
When it comes to passing laws over behaviour, education and example are always better than new laws. But sometimes a law is needed.
Just listen anywhere these days and you’ll hear the “f” word spoken very casually. I have often politely told people to not talk that way around me, and most have abided by my request.
I remember what Larry Schaffer used to say about people who swore excessively. “It is a sign of low intelligence,” he would comment, and I agree. Compare it to how Shakespeare could insult a person (if he so desired) simply by his wit and mastery of the language, not simply by reverting to foul language.
And then there is the issue that laws can’t directly deal with. What do you do to your own very atmosphere, your spiritual essence, when you bathe yourself with such language? Is it uplifting? Is it degrading? If you care about the spiritual integrity of your fellow man (rather than the fact that their language bothers you), you will speak up with strength and love. Still, do not expect to be thanked for your selfless service.