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Profanity and Freedom

Middleborough, Massachusetts recently enacted an ordinance that allows police to fine anyone who swears in public $20. We have a few questions.

Who decides what constitutes profanity? Does this mean the citizens of Middleborough can dang it and darn it but not damn it? Can a farmer step in horse manure but pay for the privilege of stepping in horse shit? Can you scare the heck out of someone but not scare the hell out of him? For that matter, when is the word hell considered profanity? Are you following the law if you discuss Hell as a place/idea/punishment but out of line if you tell someone to go there?

And what about that little thing called the Bill of Rights. (Fascinating document, by the way. More people should read it.) What about that very first amendment? You know, the one that says,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And then there is the opinion of the United States Supreme Court,which ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.

That is really the point. Freedom of speech means freedom for everyone, even people who are expressing themselves in ways we disagree with and promoting ideas that we do not like. For speech is either free or it is not. There is no middle ground.


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