Citizens living in Middleborough, Mass. who are accustomed to swearing loudly in public might be picturing $20 bills sprouting wings and fairly flying from their wallets, as residents approved the police chief’s proposed fine on public profanity we heard about in May.
At a town meeting last night, the vote was 183-50 for the ban on swearing, reports MSNBC. It isn’t meant to limit or censor private conversations, say officials, but to discourage loud, coarse language used by young people used in the downtown area and public parks.
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.
[The] 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.
A local business owner says she approves, because kids swearing often turn off customers or makes them 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 town has had a bylaw against profanity since 1968 that made cursing a crime, which meant that it was rarely enforced. This decriminalization will allow police to write tickets just like they do for parking violations, and it’ll be up to them to decide whether or not someone deserves one.