Wednesday 18 October 2017

US town backs fines for swearing

Middleborough, near Boston in the US, has backed a fine for people who swear in public
Middleborough, near Boston in the US, has backed a fine for people who swear in public

US residents in a town outside Boston have voted to make the foul-mouthed pay fines for swearing in public.

At a town meeting, Middleborough residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a 20 US dollar (£13) 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 teenagers and other young people.

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

Ms Duphily, who runs a car parts store, is among the merchants who wanted to 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 constitutional free speech 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 US Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.

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

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