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Massachusetts town approves $20 fine for swearing in public. A violation of the 1st Amendment???

Massachusetts town approves $20 fine for swearing in public

Steven Senne / AP, file

Pedestrians stroll through downtown Middleborough, Mass in his file photo.

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- Residents in Middleborough have voted to make the foul-mouthed among them pay fines for swearing in public.

At a town meeting Monday night, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

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.

I'm really happy about it," Mimi Duphily, a store owner and former town selectwoman, said after the vote. "I'm sure there's going to be some fallout, but I think what we did was necessary."

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.

The ordinance gives police discretion over whether to ticket someone if they believe the cursing ban has been violated.

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.

Fined for free speech?
Middleborough, a town of about 20,000 residents perhaps best known for its rich cranberry bogs, has had a bylaw against public profanity since 1968. But because that bylaw essentially makes cursing a crime, it has rarely if ever been enforced, officials said, because it simply would not merit the time and expense to pursue a case through the courts.

The ordinance would decriminalize public profanity, allowing police to write tickets as they would for a traffic violation. It would also decriminalize certain types of disorderly conduct, public drinking and marijuana use, and dumping snow on a roadway.

Segal praised Middleborough for reconsidering its bylaw against public profanity, but said fining people for it isn't much better.

"Police officers who never enforced the bylaw might be tempted to issue these fines, and people might end up getting fined for constitutionally protected speech," he said.

Another local merchant, Robert Saquet, described himself as "ambivalent" about the no-swearing proposal, likening it to try to enforce a ban on the seven dirty words of George Carlin, a nod to a famous sketch by the late comedian.

"In view of words commonly used in movies and cable TV, it's kind of hard to define exactly what is obscene," said Paquet, who owns a downtown furniture store.

But Duphily said, "I don't care what you do in private. It's in public what bothers me."

The Boston Globe reported that Middleborough voters also approved a $50 fine for littering; a $50 fine for shoveling snow into the street; and a $300 fine for smoking marijuana in public.

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/12/12178224-massachusetts-town-approves-20-fine-for-swearing-in-public

by on Jun. 12, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Replies (121-130):
itsrtimedownher
by on Jun. 14, 2012 at 5:01 PM

you're acting like that happens every single day.

i have never, not even one time, had that happen to me.

and if it did? my concern would not, in any way, be the words that were coming out of their mouthes. my concern would be watching what they are doing to see if the argument is going to excalate and something more serious is going to happen. if so, i need to get myself and my children out of the area.

if someone wants to tell someone else to fuck off. SO WHAT! maybe they deserve it.

why should we be hiding children from the real world? they aren't allowed to see adults get angry with each other? IT HAPPENS!!! or are they allowed to get angry but not say words that are on a random list that some random guy made up?

besides, you don't think kids talk like that? THEY DO! some of them do it in front of their parents and someone the do it when their parents aren't looking. they all do it though.

Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Freedom of speech, as well as every other Freedom has limitations. The minute YOUR Freedom infringes upon MY freedom then you no longer have the right to infringe on mine.

I would like to be able to walk down the sidewalk with my small children without having people scream obsenities at each other across the street. I also have the right to peaceful enjoyment of public areas. Am I allowed to that freedom????

Quoting itsrtimedownher:

we do not have FREEdom of speech so that we can calmly express "i really don't like you very much."

we have FREEdom of speech so we can scream "FUCK YOU!!!!!!"

the ENTIRE point is protect us from people trying to inhibit us from expressing ourselves.

class and respect are relative. the constitution is black and white.  


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I do doubt it because back in.those days it was considered extremely rude and low class to curse in public, especially in front of women and children.



I'm not saying to outlaw cursing in public all together, but crude and yelling obscenities across the streets infringes on my right to walk down the street in peaceful enjoyment with my kids.



We need to have some class and respect for others.





Quoting itsrtimedownher:

i actually don't doubt it at all.

cursing is something someone else may not like.

freedom of speech is about being FREE to say something that someone else may not like without fear of reprocussions.

it's not about being free to ask someone what they think of the weather.



Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I doubt that when the constitution was bring written and signed they didn't think "to allow people to freely curse at each other in public. Yeah...let's die for that!".








LadyBugMom09
by Silver Member on Jun. 14, 2012 at 5:22 PM
Well, my 3 yo DD does not talk like that and I do not speak like that in front of her. I would like to be able to take her to a park and not have people dropping F bombs all over the place (and yes, it has happened to me). One time at the park and the other time @ McDs.

I'm not saying that curse language should be outlawed. I'm saying that adults can show some decorum and self control and not have cursing screaming matches in public areas. That's my opinion.

I don't believe that our forefathers drafted the first amendment thinking that cursing in public should be protected speech. They were coming from a very different way of life. Men, husbands, fathers, brothers were dying for those rights and I'm sure they were thinking along the lines of protected speech was more about protests, showing disssatisfaction with their government, freedom of journalism...not dropping the F bomb at Disneyland.

Even George Washington himself banned his men from cursing in the presence of women and children.

Again, I reiterate that I am not saying cursing should be outlawed, but screaming matches, loud boisterous cursing should be refrained. I have to share the area with you and despite how you or other people may raise their kids or what they choose to expose them to, I choose not to expose my kids to that and I choose not to speak like that. JMO.


Quoting itsrtimedownher:

you're acting like that happens every single day.

i have never, not even one time, had that happen to me.

and if it did? my concern would not, in any way, be the words that were coming out of their mouthes. my concern would be watching what they are doing to see if the argument is going to excalate and something more serious is going to happen. if so, i need to get myself and my children out of the area.

if someone wants to tell someone else to fuck off. SO WHAT! maybe they deserve it.

why should we be hiding children from the real world? they aren't allowed to see adults get angry with each other? IT HAPPENS!!! or are they allowed to get angry but not say words that are on a random list that some random guy made up?

besides, you don't think kids talk like that? THEY DO! some of them do it in front of their parents and someone the do it when their parents aren't looking. they all do it though.


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Freedom of speech, as well as every other Freedom has limitations. The minute YOUR Freedom infringes upon MY freedom then you no longer have the right to infringe on mine.

I would like to be able to walk down the sidewalk with my small children without having people scream obsenities at each other across the street. I also have the right to peaceful enjoyment of public areas. Am I allowed to that freedom????


Quoting itsrtimedownher:

we do not have FREEdom of speech so that we can calmly express "i really don't like you very much."

we have FREEdom of speech so we can scream "FUCK YOU!!!!!!"

the ENTIRE point is protect us from people trying to inhibit us from expressing ourselves.

class and respect are relative. the constitution is black and white.  


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I do doubt it because back in.those days it was considered extremely rude and low class to curse in public, especially in front of women and children.



I'm not saying to outlaw cursing in public all together, but crude and yelling obscenities across the streets infringes on my right to walk down the street in peaceful enjoyment with my kids.



We need to have some class and respect for others.





Quoting itsrtimedownher:

i actually don't doubt it at all.

cursing is something someone else may not like.

freedom of speech is about being FREE to say something that someone else may not like without fear of reprocussions.

it's not about being free to ask someone what they think of the weather.



Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I doubt that when the constitution was bring written and signed they didn't think "to allow people to freely curse at each other in public. Yeah...let's die for that!".











Posted on CafeMom Mobile
LadyBugMom09
by Silver Member on Jun. 14, 2012 at 5:36 PM
Well, it wouldn't be the first time I believe the courts misinterpreted the US Constitution.

Again, I still don't believe that our forefathers had cursing in public as protected speech when they were drafting the first amendment. And I actually think it's pretty sad that the first amendment has come down to this. IMO.


Quoting shannonnigans:

You may well feel that this speech is offensive, but thankfully, that is in and of itself not how courts analyze the validity of restrictions on free speech. This law, like those that came before it, will be ruled unconstitutional for vagueness and overbreadth. Last time someone was charged under such a statute was State of North Carolina vs. Elabanjo in 2011. Held: unconstitutional and never even made it out of Superior Court to boot.

Countless other courts have done the same, and can be found in seconds in a web search. Rather than collecting $20.00, the city or town can spend lots of money in the appellate court as soon as this is challenged, only they won't, just as they didn't in North Carolina, since it is a dead-bang loser.




Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Freedom of speech, as well as every other Freedom has limitations. The minute YOUR Freedom infringes upon MY freedom then you no longer have the right to infringe on mine.

I would like to be able to walk down the sidewalk with my small children without having people scream obsenities at each other across the street. I also have the right to peaceful enjoyment of public areas. Am I allowed to that freedom????



Quoting itsrtimedownher:

we do not have FREEdom of speech so that we can calmly express "i really don't like you very much."

we have FREEdom of speech so we can scream "FUCK YOU!!!!!!"

the ENTIRE point is protect us from people trying to inhibit us from expressing ourselves.

class and respect are relative. the constitution is black and white.  


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I do doubt it because back in.those days it was considered extremely rude and low class to curse in public, especially in front of women and children.



I'm not saying to outlaw cursing in public all together, but crude and yelling obscenities across the streets infringes on my right to walk down the street in peaceful enjoyment with my kids.



We need to have some class and respect for others.





Quoting itsrtimedownher:

i actually don't doubt it at all.

cursing is something someone else may not like.

freedom of speech is about being FREE to say something that someone else may not like without fear of reprocussions.

it's not about being free to ask someone what they think of the weather.



Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I doubt that when the constitution was bring written and signed they didn't think "to allow people to freely curse at each other in public. Yeah...let's die for that!".











Posted on CafeMom Mobile
darciemelvin
by on Jun. 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM

i live in mass, and i think this is hilarious. first of all, FREEDOM OF SPEECH. second of all, FUCK THAT. third, middleborough isnt even a big city, its not like theres tonsssss of kids running around like fuck this cock shit bitch. this is just ridiculous.

nikisazombie
by Nikki on Jun. 14, 2012 at 6:01 PM
Ha!! I agree!

While I think it's silly, I think more people could have voted if it really mattered to them that much. *shrug*


Quoting anxiousschk:

Guess the other people should have exercised their right to vote. 


Quoting OHgirlinCA:

Do they have a list of what words is considered swearing?  What happened to free speech?  In a town of 20,000 residents, 183 people chose this for them all.  Ridiculous!



Posted on CafeMom Mobile
kam013
by Silver Member on Jun. 14, 2012 at 6:10 PM


Quoting nikisazombie:

Ha!! I agree!

While I think it's silly, I think more people could have voted if it really mattered to them that much. *shrug*


Quoting anxiousschk:

Guess the other people should have exercised their right to vote. 


Quoting OHgirlinCA:

Do they have a list of what words is considered swearing?  What happened to free speech?  In a town of 20,000 residents, 183 people chose this for them all.  Ridiculous!



The vote was taken at a town meeting, which many people don't attend due to work and child commitments.  

Most of the people that I have talked to actually thought it was going to be a ballot question.  The other half of the people I have spoken with never thought in a million years that it would pass.  

nikisazombie
by Nikki on Jun. 14, 2012 at 6:38 PM
I guess... my thought is... if you CAN attend, then take it seriously if it's something you don't want to happen. I guess if it's not an official vote then I don't see how they're able to do it. I thought things had to be on a ballot to be actually "official".


Quoting kam013:


Quoting nikisazombie:

Ha!! I agree!



While I think it's silly, I think more people could have voted if it really mattered to them that much. *shrug*





Quoting anxiousschk:

Guess the other people should have exercised their right to vote. 



Quoting OHgirlinCA:

Do they have a list of what words is considered swearing?  What happened to free speech?  In a town of 20,000 residents, 183 people chose this for them all.  Ridiculous!




The vote was taken at a town meeting, which many people don't attend due to work and child commitments.  

Most of the people that I have talked to actually thought it was going to be a ballot question.  The other half of the people I have spoken with never thought in a million years that it would pass.  


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
shannonnigans
by Platinum Member on Jun. 14, 2012 at 7:49 PM

So, before I'm accused of putting words in your mouth, let me be sure I'm understanding what you seem to be saying.  If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying the courts and specifically the Supreme Court have not only misinterpreted the 1st Amendment, but have continued to do so, through conservative and liberal courts alike, almost since its inception.  I think you are also saying, or at least inferring, that vagueness and overbreadth are not really or should not be important considerations when talking about restricting free speech.  Would that be a fair assessment of your views? 

Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Well, it wouldn't be the first time I believe the courts misinterpreted the US Constitution.

Again, I still don't believe that our forefathers had cursing in public as protected speech when they were drafting the first amendment. And I actually think it's pretty sad that the first amendment has come down to this. IMO.


Quoting shannonnigans:

You may well feel that this speech is offensive, but thankfully, that is in and of itself not how courts analyze the validity of restrictions on free speech. This law, like those that came before it, will be ruled unconstitutional for vagueness and overbreadth. Last time someone was charged under such a statute was State of North Carolina vs. Elabanjo in 2011. Held: unconstitutional and never even made it out of Superior Court to boot.

Countless other courts have done the same, and can be found in seconds in a web search. Rather than collecting $20.00, the city or town can spend lots of money in the appellate court as soon as this is challenged, only they won't, just as they didn't in North Carolina, since it is a dead-bang loser.




Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Freedom of speech, as well as every other Freedom has limitations. The minute YOUR Freedom infringes upon MY freedom then you no longer have the right to infringe on mine.

I would like to be able to walk down the sidewalk with my small children without having people scream obsenities at each other across the street. I also have the right to peaceful enjoyment of public areas. Am I allowed to that freedom????



Quoting itsrtimedownher:

we do not have FREEdom of speech so that we can calmly express "i really don't like you very much."

we have FREEdom of speech so we can scream "FUCK YOU!!!!!!"

the ENTIRE point is protect us from people trying to inhibit us from expressing ourselves.

class and respect are relative. the constitution is black and white.  


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I do doubt it because back in.those days it was considered extremely rude and low class to curse in public, especially in front of women and children.



I'm not saying to outlaw cursing in public all together, but crude and yelling obscenities across the streets infringes on my right to walk down the street in peaceful enjoyment with my kids.



We need to have some class and respect for others.





Quoting itsrtimedownher:

i actually don't doubt it at all.

cursing is something someone else may not like.

freedom of speech is about being FREE to say something that someone else may not like without fear of reprocussions.

it's not about being free to ask someone what they think of the weather.



Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I doubt that when the constitution was bring written and signed they didn't think "to allow people to freely curse at each other in public. Yeah...let's die for that!".












LadyBugMom09
by Silver Member on Jun. 14, 2012 at 8:01 PM

You are over stepping what I'm trying to convey, yes.

In 1957 the US Supreme Court ruled in a case that: "Obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected freedom of speech or press - either (1) under the First Amendment, as to the Federal Government, or (2) under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as to the States."

    (a) In the light of history, it is apparent that the unconditional phrasing of the First Amendment was not intended to protect every utterance.

    (b) The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people. .

    (c) All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance - unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion - have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests; but implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance. 

Since then, yes, there have been many, many other cases in which the supreme Court has ruled otherwise, stating that obscenity is protected under the First Amendment.

HOWEVER, what I am saying is that I, me personally, I do not believe that our forefathers were thinking back in the day when they were sitting around that table, drafting the US Constitution, which men had died and continued to die for them to have the right to write it, and said, "The First Amendment will be to give people the right to protest, the right to speak out against their government....oh...and to curse in public."

I don't think that was their intention.  Whether courts have ruled stating that people an swear in public and drop F bombs all over the place, and scream obsenities across the street, store, park, what have you, is a First Amendment Constitutional right, I am sorry, but I disagree that THAT was the intended purpose that they had in mind.

Quoting shannonnigans:

So, before I'm accused of putting words in your mouth, let me be sure I'm understanding what you seem to be saying.  If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying the courts and specifically the Supreme Court have not only misinterpreted the 1st Amendment, but have continued to do so, through conservative and liberal courts alike, almost since its inception.  I think you are also saying, or at least inferring, that vagueness and overbreadth are not really or should not be important considerations when talking about restricting free speech.  Would that be a fair assessment of your views? 


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Well, it wouldn't be the first time I believe the courts misinterpreted the US Constitution.



Again, I still don't believe that our forefathers had cursing in public as protected speech when they were drafting the first amendment. And I actually think it's pretty sad that the first amendment has come down to this. IMO.





Quoting shannonnigans:

You may well feel that this speech is offensive, but thankfully, that is in and of itself not how courts analyze the validity of restrictions on free speech. This law, like those that came before it, will be ruled unconstitutional for vagueness and overbreadth. Last time someone was charged under such a statute was State of North Carolina vs. Elabanjo in 2011. Held: unconstitutional and never even made it out of Superior Court to boot.


Countless other courts have done the same, and can be found in seconds in a web search. Rather than collecting $20.00, the city or town can spend lots of money in the appellate court as soon as this is challenged, only they won't, just as they didn't in North Carolina, since it is a dead-bang loser.







Quoting LadyBugMom09:

Freedom of speech, as well as every other Freedom has limitations. The minute YOUR Freedom infringes upon MY freedom then you no longer have the right to infringe on mine.

I would like to be able to walk down the sidewalk with my small children without having people scream obsenities at each other across the street. I also have the right to peaceful enjoyment of public areas. Am I allowed to that freedom????




Quoting itsrtimedownher:

we do not have FREEdom of speech so that we can calmly express "i really don't like you very much."

we have FREEdom of speech so we can scream "FUCK YOU!!!!!!"

the ENTIRE point is protect us from people trying to inhibit us from expressing ourselves.

class and respect are relative. the constitution is black and white.  


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I do doubt it because back in.those days it was considered extremely rude and low class to curse in public, especially in front of women and children.



I'm not saying to outlaw cursing in public all together, but crude and yelling obscenities across the streets infringes on my right to walk down the street in peaceful enjoyment with my kids.



We need to have some class and respect for others.





Quoting itsrtimedownher:

i actually don't doubt it at all.

cursing is something someone else may not like.

freedom of speech is about being FREE to say something that someone else may not like without fear of reprocussions.

it's not about being free to ask someone what they think of the weather.



Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I doubt that when the constitution was bring written and signed they didn't think "to allow people to freely curse at each other in public. Yeah...let's die for that!".
















kam013
by Silver Member on Jun. 14, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I do agree with you, people who wanted a say probably should have made an effort to be there. I could not attend, nor could my husband, both due to work.

Quoting nikisazombie:

I guess... my thought is... if you CAN attend, then take it seriously if it's something you don't want to happen. I guess if it's not an official vote then I don't see how they're able to do it. I thought things had to be on a ballot to be actually "official".




Quoting kam013:


Quoting nikisazombie:

Ha!! I agree!





While I think it's silly, I think more people could have voted if it really mattered to them that much. *shrug*








Quoting anxiousschk:

Guess the other people should have exercised their right to vote. 




Quoting OHgirlinCA:

Do they have a list of what words is considered swearing?  What happened to free speech?  In a town of 20,000 residents, 183 people chose this for them all.  Ridiculous!





The vote was taken at a town meeting, which many people don't attend due to work and child commitments.  

Most of the people that I have talked to actually thought it was going to be a ballot question.  The other half of the people I have spoken with never thought in a million years that it would pass.  


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