Monday, June 11, 2012

Anti-Profanity Law

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.


Andy McBride said...

So according to this law it is fine to walk around randomly swearing at the top of your lungs, as long as you do not address it to anyone in particular. The idea that swearing is a sign of lower mentality is bunk! Environmental factors play a large part in whether a person swears or not. If this is not true, then everybody who plays golf has the same IQ.

mousiemarc said...

I understand what they are trying to accomplish with this law. I also know that bad policy is often clothed in good intentions. Such policies can open the door for many things. What are we going to define as profanity? Could Middleborough pass a law 5 years from now defining profanity as, (fill in the blank). All that would need to happen is a new state definition on profanity. I have studied enough history (especially the banking industry) to know that can and often does happen. There are usually more than enough laws already on the books that are not enforced that could deal with such behavior.

As a matter of fact I would argue that most of the security we have in airports is useless in stopping terrorists but highly efficient at invading our civil liberties. Most terrorist attacks have not been stopped by government screeners but by the other passangers. We wouldn't have the white house if that were not so. As a matter of fact the 9/11 attacks wouldn't have happened if security were following the rules that were already in place. Which brings me to my original point, we need to follow the laws and regulations we already have and not create new ones.

Great blog


mousiemarc said...

First, anyone screaming profanity at the top of their lungs randomly are most likely insane. Second, I don't like the law either. Third, anyone who swears constantly does show a lack of understanding but that doesn't mean their stupid. A good number of people use profanity not in frustration but as common everyday vocabulary. Needless to say at best their not representing themselves well. An occasional slip of the tongue from someone who seldom swears goes much further. To use profanity all the time would be equal to being a musician playing one note consistantly. At some point everyone gets tired of that note.


christopher Nyerges said...

I agree that matters such as this cannot be addressed strictly with laws. As I said, education and example are better ways to deal with this. As for my quote from Larry Shaffer, that it is a sign of low-intelligence when someone swears, I don't believe that he was speaking strictly of IQ tests. He was speaking of how some high school students and others try to be "cool" by swearing, and their peers reward such language. My focus is the power of language, and the alchemy that affects us when we use that language. I will address these soon in another blog. thank you for your comments.