• Massachusetts Town Adopts $20 Fine for Public Profanity

    While national politicians offer few solutions to deal with rising deficits, one Massachusetts town has a novel solution for the debt crisis. At last night's town meeting, following a unanimous voice vote in support of a "get off my lawn" resolution, the residents of Middleborough voted 183-50 in favor of a proposal to impose a $20 fine on public profanity. Now we wait for the end of the Red Sox' season and watch the coffers overflow.

    "Middleborough" and "Monday night" are strange ways of spelling "Salem" and "late 17th century," but we will just have to believe that the story came via the Associated Press and not Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World

    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…

    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.

    The ACLU's freedom-mongering aside, treating swearing as a civil violation rather than a criminal offense, actually represents a libertarian step for the Plymouth County community. Since 1968, Middleborough has had a bylaw criminalizing public cursing, though the statute was rarely enforced due to the rigmarole of the "courts" and the "Constitution."

    As this move comes on the heels of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's decision to ban sugary soft drinks in containers over 16 ounces, some are wondering whether the cursing ban extends from the same feelings of personal inadequacy. Bloomberg's salt cravings are well documented; perhaps the soda ban allowed him to look down on unhealthy sugar consumers — the first time the 5 and half foot mayor has looked down on anyone. Meanwhile, Middleborough is home to Assawompset Pond. They too are probably overcompensating.

    Photo by Patrick Strattner/Getty Images

    Tags: Civil Rights, Extremely Local Politics, Massachusetts


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