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South Carolina Legislator Trying To Ban Vulgar Words in Public:

Here's the bill, which would make it a felony "for a person in a public forum or place of public accommodation wilfully and knowingly to publish orally or in writing, exhibit, or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature." Likewise, it would be a felony "for a person to disseminate profanity to a minor if he wilfully and knowingly publishes orally or in writing, exhibits, or otherwise makes available material containing words, language, or actions of profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature."

To begin with, of course, this is unconstitutionally overbroad under Cohen v. California (the Fuck the Draft case), even if "profane" is read to mean "vulgar" rather than "characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things." It may also be unconstitutionally vague; see Reno v. ACLU, which suggests that such terms are potentially vague when their scope isn't narrowed by other provisions of the statute (compare Hamling v. U.S.).

But beyond this, what's shocking is how ridiculously broad this proposal is, even to people who I take it would disagree with Cohen:

  1. If you say "fuck" or, I suppose, "damn" or "shit" around your own teenager, you're a felon.

  2. If you give, lend, or sell a book, newspaper, or movie to a minor that contains any such words, you're a felon.

  3. If you give the King James Version of the Bible to a minor, knowing that it contains the word "piss," I expect you're a felon, too. (I set aside "damn" and "hell" on the theory that they might not be treated as "vulgar" when used in a religious sense rather than figuratively as insults or expressions of disgust.)

  4. Two 16-year-olds can be sexually involved in South Carolina (as can an adult and a 16-year-old), but under this law they'd be felons if they talk lewdly to each other. (Why is teenage sex bad? Because it might lead to lewd talk.)

What is Senator Ford thinking?

Thanks to Bill Poser (Language Log) for the pointer.

Zubon (www):
Libraries are places of public accommodation that make available a great many such publications. Are all library works felons, or just the librarians? All stores with books and videos could face similar problems. I find the Song of Songs fairly lewd, so selling Bibles is out. Do hotel Gideons have that book? Wouldn't lewd actions in your hotel room also be covered? A doctor's office is a place of public accommodation, so there are entire categories of medical problems one could not describe.
1.15.2009 1:08pm
Another David (mail):

What is Senator Ford thinking?


Presumes facts not in evidence.
1.15.2009 1:17pm
Ben P:
Do all professors who teach first amendment take joy in swearing in front of the class?

I always find it somewhat amusing that cohen is never just cohen it's "Cohen, the "fuck the draft case."

But maybe I'm just a little immature.
1.15.2009 1:18pm
roy:
Am I being melodramatic to conclude that an overwhelming majority of Americans would felons under this law?
1.15.2009 1:22pm
Hoosier:
"Likewise, it would be a felony "for a person to disseminate profanity to a minor"

Heh-heh. He said "semin". That was pretty cool!

But a bit of a problem for yours truly. I was thinking of booking Liz Phair to play the SC State Fair. (Do you see the tie-in? "Phair at the Fair"? Or "The Only Fair with Phair"? Or something. Anyhoo, it's real clever, even if I do say so myself.)

But I can't think of a song that doesn't include the "F-bomb." Well, there is "Shitloads of Money." But that might cause a problem anyway. And "Flower" and "HWC" are totally out I guess.

Darn!

I wonder if Sonic Youth are available . . .
1.15.2009 1:24pm
Federal Dog:
The idea of felony vulgarity is rather amusing.
1.15.2009 1:24pm
Fub:
What is Senator Ford thinking?
Some possibilities:

"Wonder how many rubes will fall for this one? I need the votes."

"Maybe this will divert attention from the bill I've porked up for my buddies."

"That'll show those pesky secular humanists!"

"Mencken was right. You can't underestimate!"

"Uh oh. April first isn't for two and a half months, and my idiot staff let this out early!"
1.15.2009 1:26pm
Joey Plummer (mail):
wouldn't "porked up" be...
ah... never mind.
1.15.2009 1:33pm
Hoosier:
Joey Plummer
wouldn't "porked up" be...

Ka-ZING!
1.15.2009 1:34pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
ben

it is not just professors. the great mel nimmer, who argued cohen, made it a point to say 'fuck' in his oral argument over chief justice burger's admonition not to do so.

it's a big part of the lore surrounding the case
1.15.2009 1:35pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
I think it's a good idea to note the good Senator's political party. It wasn't the one I expected it to be.
1.15.2009 1:35pm
Matt P (mail):
Personally, I like to see some sort of statute criminalizing the inartful use of profanity. The real problem today is that people don't know how to swear -- no creativity -- its not even vulgar anymore, its just punctuation. Don't even get me started on the dilution of the f-bomb by over use, if you think inflation destroys value just think of what its doing to our vulgarity.
1.15.2009 1:40pm
Fub:
Joey Plummer wrote at 1.15.2009 1:33pm:
wouldn't "porked up" be...
ah... never mind.
Uh oh. Wonder what North Carolina's long arm statute looks like.
1.15.2009 1:40pm
SC Public Defender:
Please take into account that Senator Ford fancies himself Charleston's Al Sharpton.
1.15.2009 1:41pm
Tennessean (mail):
Mike G,

Although this may be equally true in the rest of the country, throughout the South, Republican and Democrat don't necessarily mean the same thing in local politics that they mean in national politics. In many places, the local Democratic party has a virtual stranglehold on things, but the Democrats there would be to the right of Republicans in, e.g., Manhattan.
1.15.2009 1:42pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Another David wins the thread, though Joey Plumber gives a good effort.

As too many laws, these are just 'feel good' expositions. They get written up and passed--what's with the governors, btw?--and then clutter the courts for years and at uncountable public and private expense before they're tossed out.

I propose a national bill to send the bill to congress critters who write laws so boneheadedly stupid, payable in cash and out of pocket. I think that's the only way these morons will grasp the seriousness of their jobs.

And no paying these bills with campaign funds!
1.15.2009 1:43pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
Just convert every high school into a prison, since almost all the students would be felons, anyway.
1.15.2009 1:43pm
Gray Ghost:
After talking to some state legislators I have concluded that their intelligence should not be overestimated. The state capital is not exactly the home of the geniuses in many cases.

GG
1.15.2009 1:43pm
Mike 'Ralph' Smith:
Ralph to self: "Let's hope this moron is a Republican."

Ralph after googling: "Doh!"
1.15.2009 1:44pm
Kingsley Browne (mail):
I agree that this is a nutty and obviously unconstitutional law for many of the reasons that Eugene suggests. However, I think there is at least an argument that the statute does not go so far as to make a person a felon for using profane language in front of his children.

The statute makes it a crime "knowingly to publish orally or in writing, exhibit, or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature" or "for a person to disseminate profanity to a minor if he wilfully and knowingly publishes orally or in writing, exhibits, or otherwise makes available material containing words, language, or actions of profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature."

The words "publish," "disseminate," and "material" arguably indicate that the sort of thing that this statute was intended to address is giving a child a dirty book or reading a dirty book to a child. Without going beyond Eugene's post, I don't know if that was what Senator Ford was thinking, but, based upon the language of the statute, I doubt that he had in mind the mere uttering of a profane epithet.

That interpretation does not cure the overbreadth of the statute, but it does at least narrow it.
1.15.2009 1:44pm
dearieme:
Christ on a bicycle! Or, another schooldays favourite, Jesus Prune!
1.15.2009 1:45pm
Joey Plummer (mail):
Hoosier:
If Sonic Youth aren't ("isn't"?) available, I would recommend that you see if The Fugs are still together.
1.15.2009 1:47pm
Ben P:

I think it's a good idea to note the good Senator's political party. It wasn't the one I expected it to be.


Perhaps, but I see that as a possible lack of understanding about Southern politics. A great many democrats in the south are very different from people who call themselves democrats and live in New York or California.

I don't live in South Carolina, but I live in another Southern state that has a Democratic majority in the legislature. But our democratic majority is substantially pro-life, substantially pro-gun (or at least against gun control), and generally pretty socially conservative.

It appears that Senator Ford is African American but that doesn't change things much. I have little doubt that a substantial part of his constituency is religious and more or less socially conservative even if they vote democrat.
1.15.2009 1:50pm
Perry Dane:
Yes, this proposed law seems both way too overbroad and much too vague. But would a more narrowly tailored law that tried to limit the casual vocal use of certain swear-words in public places within obvious earshot of involuntary third parties, and without any political or artistic purpose, (1) be possible to write, and (2) be constitutional? The statute I have in mind would not cover, for example, theater performances, discrete private conversations (even in public places), etc. I don't know what the answer is, but I do think that the question is interesting, and relates to the broader question of when the effort to nourish a civil and civilized public space bumps up against the first amendment.
1.15.2009 1:50pm
CB55 (mail):
The list of banned words for US radio and television is in a U.S. Supreme Court report — called FCC v Pacifica Foundation (438 US 726, 57 L Ed 2d 1073, 98 S Ct 3026). The case was about a radio program called "Filthy Words", sp[oken over the air on 20 October 1973, by a "satiric humorist named George Carlin" (I quote from the report at 438 US 729). The court report includes a transcript of the radio program.

The original seven words were shit, piss, $uck, $unt, $ocksucker, mother$ucker, and tits.

Three more words you could never say on television were fart, turd, and twat. Fart is harmless. It's like tits. Cutie word, no problem. Turd you can't say, but who wants to? But "twat" is interesting ... Twat!

Twat is interesting because it's the only word know applying to a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning. Snatch, box, and pussy all have other meanings. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, 'We're gonna snatch that pussy, and put him in a box and put bring him on the airplane.' But twat stands alone.

(Incidentally, the US Supreme Court, by a majority, said that the Federal Communications Commission could stop radio stations broadcasting stuff like that, at times when children were likely to be listening, in spite of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.)

What about euphemistic or 'hidden' references to 'forbidden' words, such as the increasingly popular "X-word" form?

Forms such as "the f-word" ($uck), and so on, have now branched out into politically correct usage, i.e. to cover words not considered politically-correct in context. Other examples include "the D-word" ("dynamic", used as code for "male" in university teacher ads), or "the L-word" ("ladylike", as a counterpart in the same article. Dick is out, but penis is in as is Willie, Johnson, 3rd leg and Hairy. If it is not a medical or clinical sexual term it is banned in prime time, but can and maybe used in cable TV.

In prime time TV land friggin, frigging, freaking, F-ing, F-U, F You is used for the F-word. In court room and police melodrama TV show makers use sodomy to signify oral and or anal intercourse acts. There are obscene words referring to sexual intercourse, human waste, homosexuality. Body parts, off-color and one who practices the sin of Oedipus such as mother $ucker, an odd compound curse-word, the $hit oath or swear. Somewhat oddly, blasphemous oaths like (For Christ"s Sake!) are not on the taboo list.

Many of the words now considered most 'profane' are held to be so because they were created to insult and disparage a particular group - while they might not always be illegal to use in prime time TV land or in the courts, they are frowned up on in most places of worship, public places and places of business but can be used to appeal to base humor under certain conditions by some people as in the use of the n-word by Chris Rock, red neck and hill billy by C&W singers.
1.15.2009 1:56pm
Thales (mail) (www):
He's thinking that he'd like to join Roy Moore in the proud tradition of defiance of that pesky federal First Amendment, because the only true judge is Jesus, and he cries when the little children hear naughty words.
1.15.2009 1:58pm
Oren:

As too many laws, these are just 'feel good' expositions. They get written up and passed--what's with the governors, btw?--and then clutter the courts for years and at uncountable public and private expense before they're tossed out.


No DA will ever bring charges based on this law. No LEO could reasonably believe that the law is constitutional (contrast with, e.g. Krull). Passing this law will not burden anyone with anything.
1.15.2009 1:58pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Ben P: I can't speak for all professors. But when I suspect that most of my readers or listeners don't know what Cohen v. California stands for, I try to explain it by saying it's the "Fuck the Draft" case (since many people do know about that). When I'm confident that the audience already knows Cohen, I don't feel any need to go beyond the case name.

Kingsley: I assume that "publish ... orally" is used in the sense of communicating, much as it's used in slander law, see, e.g., Pond Place Partners, Inc. v. Poole, 567 S.E.2d 881 (S.C. App. 2002).
1.15.2009 2:02pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
I was thinking of booking Liz Phair to play the SC State Fair. . . . But I can't think of a song that doesn't include the "F-bomb."

I'm pretty sure that at least 6'1", Dead Shark, Uncle Alvarez, and Polyester Bride are all clean. (I was also going to mention Supernova, but then I remembered the line about cherubs.)
1.15.2009 2:06pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):

Christ on a bicycle! Or, another schooldays favourite, Jesus Prune!


You forgot the ever classic "Cheese and Rice"!

Well, if this passes, I guess Gov Blago will only have 49 states to chose from when he decides to make his triumphant improbable political comeback.
1.15.2009 2:12pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
"what's shocking is how ridiculously broad this proposal is, even to people who I take it would disagree with Cohen."

I can't speak for all people who disagree with Cohen, but yes, this proposal is ridiculous to one such person.

Putting to one side the folly of criminalizing cussing at all, our legislators need to get a grip on what it means for a crime to be a felony. Felonies should be things like rape, robbery, burglary, and stealing large amounts of money. "Felon" should be a social stigma because it should be reserved for truly bad acts. The force of the criminal law is diluted by extending it to acts that most people don't consider to be moral turpitude.
1.15.2009 2:13pm
A Law Dawg:
I'd bet money this is a well-meaning but utterly stupid attempt to ban rap music and rap videos.
1.15.2009 2:14pm
Lighten up Kansas:
Hoosier, a Sonic Youth reference would be incomplete w/out the requisite "Moist Vagina" reference.
1.15.2009 2:16pm
Sk (mail):
I agree with Perry Dane. The law presented here is obviously overbroad, unconstitutional, yada yada. So obvious, its easy to mock it (congratulations, folks).


The interesting discussion to be had is whether a better written law is constitutional or feasible (or desirable). Typically, I like this site because it has interesting discussions. Oh, well. You can't bat 1000.

Sk
1.15.2009 2:20pm
A Law Dawg:
Hoosier, a Sonic Youth reference would be incomplete w/out the requisite "Moist Vagina" reference.


As a person poisoned by vulgarity and lewd talk, I submit that most things are incomplete without a reference to moist vaginas.
1.15.2009 2:20pm
blcjr (mail):
He was obviously thinking we can legislate morality. Hey, I'm a prude. I came of age during the heyday of the free speech movement, and still cannot understand how vulgar speech exemplifies the presence of an enlightened mind. But there are lots of vulgar things beyond words, like Congress itself, when it refuses to censure its own miscreants (like Rangel or Dodd). Or the fools that keep voting them into office.

There's a common vice on both extremes of the political spectrum, where laws are routinely passed to regulate behavior. I'm no libertarian (color me an old fashioned conservative), but there is just too much of this. If somebody has a potty mouth, stay away from them. And if you don't like my guns, stay away from me. We do not need an intrusive government regulating every aspect of our lives.

I take responsibility -- or "ownership" to use a current vernacular -- for my own conduct and behavior. That's where this all begins, and ends -- with individual accountability. We've got to put the onus back on the individual, and stop trying to think we can legislate responsibility.
1.15.2009 2:31pm
resh (mail):
I figure a sports stadium is a public arena-obviously. So when the masses yell, in unison, "Gamecocks suck" at the local (U. of South Carolina) team for another boneheaded play, and yet another loss, are the fans candidates for the hoosegow?

They better get cozy.
1.15.2009 2:32pm
Hoosier:
John Burgess
Another David wins the thread

Well we now know that John Burgess is a lawyer.

I'm still giving the thread to Joey.

Just Dropping By
(I was also going to mention Supernova, but then I remembered the line about cherubs.)

I also call your attention to the line: "And you fuck like a volcano/and you're verything to me". The others I will grant you.
But "Do you really want to [hear] Ployester Bride"?

[Until I read the lyrics for Polyester Bride, I always heard "flap your wings" as something other than "flap your wings." But you are correct.]

Lighten up Kansas:
Hoosier, a Sonic Youth reference would be incomplete w/out the requisite "Moist Vagina" reference.

Wait. Moist WHAT?!!

Indeed!

Well, then, forget them. I'm going to have to look into these "Fugs" gentlemen.
1.15.2009 2:33pm
Hoosier:
[To be quite frank, my primary objection to Sonic Youth is the lousy singing. My second objection is that rock bands do not have guitarists named Thurston; that name should stay on Gilligan's Island.]
1.15.2009 2:35pm
Arkady:
Fuck him.

BTW, if someone reads this blog comment out loud in South Carolina, would they be at risk under the proposed "legislation"? Would I and the VC be at risk if the comment came up on the screen of a computer in a public library?
1.15.2009 2:41pm
chrismn:
There is a serious issue here: Does the majority have some kind of collective
property right to the public square?

I don't care who says what in private venues where it is pretty clear that anyone who enters the venue will likely hear these words. But what about in public? Doesn't the majority have some rights to decorum? Everyone almost certainly agrees they do. The government certainly could outlaw a "Jack off against the draft" movement which involved pulling one's pants down and masturbating in public as a form of protest. So why is ok to outlaw this form of expression and not public utterances of vulgarities.

Cohen was decided incorrectly. In venues where you are speaking to people who didn't agree to spoken to, the majority has the right (and frequently exercises it) to regulate the manner of speech.
1.15.2009 2:44pm
A Law Dawg:
The government certainly could outlaw a "Jack off against the draft" movement which involved pulling one's pants down and masturbating in public as a form of protest. So why is ok to outlaw this form of expression and not public utterances of vulgarities.


It comes down to the seminal difference between speech and acts.
1.15.2009 2:48pm
John A (mail):
To quote W. C. Fields -
.
Godfrey Daniel!
.
This beslubbering clapper-clawed mammering lackwit should rescind his tickle-brained lickspittle proposal forthwith, nay, e'en though it be unseemly 'tis surely not risen to felony status to befoul the air with ringing curses upon stubbing a toe o'er such as this fen-sucked mounting block!
.
apologies to -
Elizabethan Insults
1.15.2009 2:55pm
crane:
No DA will ever bring charges based on this law. No LEO could reasonably believe that the law is constitutional (contrast with, e.g. Krull). Passing this law will not burden anyone with anything.

We'd all love to think that, but all it takes is one. And you know there's someone, somewhere, who will do it.
1.15.2009 2:56pm
Whadonna More:

A Law Dawg:

It comes down to the seminal difference between speech and acts.


Well played, sir.
1.15.2009 3:02pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
"Vulgar" merely means "common," while "profane" means simply, "not sacred." So will South Carolineans be limited to discussing theology in abstruse terms under this new statute?

Void for vagueness.
1.15.2009 3:12pm
BGates:
He was obviously thinking we can legislate morality.
Here I thought rape, theft, and murder were immoral.

Does the majority have some kind of collective
property right to the public square?

I should hope so, but I wonder if we're in the minority in that belief.
1.15.2009 3:12pm
Seamus (mail):

Twat is interesting because it's the only word know applying to a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning. Snatch, box, and pussy all have other meanings. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, 'We're gonna snatch that pussy, and put him in a box and put bring him on the airplane.'



I thought, with all that talk about words with more than one meaning, you were getting around to telling us that you can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick.
1.15.2009 3:21pm
Hoosier:
it's the only word know applying to a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning

Do you mean "known to you"? I bet you were never in a fraternity.
1.15.2009 3:29pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
1. Felony? Oh my. There was a time when felonies were hangin' offenses--and reserved for really, really serious crimes.

2. If Senator Ford proposed making it an infraction (non-arrestable, punishable by a fine) to use vulgar language in the presence of minors or in a public place, I think that is an entirely defensible statute, both as good public policy, and within the original meaning of the First Amendment. But since most of the commenters here are lawyers, or lawyers-to-be, the notion of learning restraint in the use of language may identify me as a hopeless fuddy-duddy.

3. When I was young, it was generally considered that the use of foul language was a sign that a person's vocabulary toolbox was a bit on the empty side. Now it seems to be considered evidence of being sophisticated or intellectual.
1.15.2009 3:32pm
Hoosier:
A Law Dawg

Can we stipulate that "moist" is the greatest adjective in the English language? No matter what noun it is applied to, it's just one heck of an adjective. And it is underutilized in academic book reviews.
1.15.2009 3:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It comes down to the seminal difference between speech and acts.
There isn't one--at least not one that the law consistently recognizes. We criminalize speech with some regularity. Start screaming at some stranger on a public street that you are going to beat him to a pulp, perhaps while holding a baseball bat--even though you don't swing the bat. Keep screaming at him as you approach. Will you or will you not be arrested at least for disturbing the peace?

Speaking is an act. It starts air moving, which impinges on others. (That's how we know that someone is speaking to us.) If you produce noise at 60 db, that's free speech. At 180 db, it's aggravated assault, if not murder.
1.15.2009 3:37pm
PeterWimsey (mail):
Can we stipulate that "moist" is the greatest adjective in the English language? No matter what noun it is applied to, it's just one heck of an adjective. And it is underutilized in academic book reviews.



I also like "greasy."
1.15.2009 3:42pm
A Law Dawg:
It comes down to the seminal difference between speech and acts.

There isn't one--at least not one that the law consistently recognizes. We criminalize speech with some regularity. Start screaming at some stranger on a public street that you are going to beat him to a pulp, perhaps while holding a baseball bat--even though you don't swing the bat. Keep screaming at him as you approach. Will you or will you not be arrested at least for disturbing the peace?


A spunky response, to be sure, but it doesn't come to the point I was actually making.
1.15.2009 3:42pm
A Law Dawg:
Can we stipulate that "moist" is the greatest adjective in the English language? No matter what noun it is applied to, it's just one heck of an adjective. And it is underutilized in academic book reviews.
I also like "greasy."


I like "viscous." It's often misread (or misspelled) as "viscious", yet when used to describe an intimate encouter either reading enhances the attributed prestige.
1.15.2009 3:44pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
He's thinking "I bet nobody is gonna want to vote against this and it'll make a great thing to talk about in upcoming campaign for Congress."
1.15.2009 3:54pm
Perseus (mail):
He's thinking that he'd like to join Roy Moore in the proud tradition of defiance of that pesky federal First Amendment,

More like in defiance of those pesky U.S. Supreme Court justices who have *ucked over the citizenry with their *hitty interpretation of the First Amendment.
1.15.2009 4:25pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"More like in defiance of those pesky U.S. Supreme Court justices who have *ucked over the citizenry with their *hitty interpretation of the First Amendment."

Um, yeah. It's terrible that states can't establish churches or ban offensive language. Things are really going to the dogs.
1.15.2009 5:38pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


"More like in defiance of those pesky U.S. Supreme Court justices who have *ucked over the citizenry with their *hitty interpretation of the First Amendment."


Um, yeah. It's terrible that states can't establish churches or ban offensive language. Things are really going to the dogs.
Except that the decision of states to disestablish churches wasn't because of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nor is there any reason to think that any state would establish a church today. There is zero support for this on the Religious Right. THe objection is to absurd arguments about whether an historical cross on the Los Angeles County seal is an "establishment of religion."

Since you probably aren't enough to remember when it was considered low class to use foul language in front of children, you have no idea how much things really are "going to the dogs."
1.15.2009 5:59pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Mr. Cramer:

I assume you meant to type the word "old" in your last sentence. I'm not really sure what my views on high v. low class ought to have to do with the constraints the First Amendment imposes on state governments, but no, I don't think it is classy to swear in front of children. I just think it's silly to give the state the power to ban such activity.
1.15.2009 6:19pm
oledrunk3 (mail):
I suggest that language appropriate on a construction site, fraternity house, barracks or locker room be avoided in other places.
1.15.2009 6:40pm
Eric Howard (mail):
Is this an appropriate time to comment not only that there may be too many criminal laws but that too many of them are felonies?
1.15.2009 6:45pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
I guess April Wine will not be performing their smash hit "If You See Kay" in SC during their triumphant improbable comeback tour..
1.15.2009 7:18pm
David Schwartz (mail):
"He was obviously thinking we can legislate morality." Here I thought rape, theft, and murder were immoral.
Certainly they are, but they aren't illegal because they are immoral. If immorality were sufficient grounds for making something illegal, many would argue premarital sex, adultery, and coveting the ass of thy neighbor's wife should be illegal.

Rape is both illegal and immoral. But it isn't illegal because it's immoral. It's illegal because it violates the rights of the victim. Not all immoral acts violate rights.
1.15.2009 7:26pm
SC_and_sorry:
Ford does this every legislative session.

He ha no business being elected dog catcher... much less a state legislator. He is an embarrassment to us.
1.15.2009 7:29pm
Hoosier:
Clayton

Since you probably aren't enough to remember when it was considered low class to use foul language in front of children

You mean it isn't anymore? [He asks completely without sarcasm.]
1.15.2009 7:50pm
wooga:

"He was obviously thinking we can legislate morality." Here I thought rape, theft, and murder were immoral.

Certainly they are, but they aren't illegal because they are immoral. If immorality were sufficient grounds for making something illegal, many would argue premarital sex, adultery, and coveting the ass of thy neighbor's wife should be illegal.

David Schwartz,
What about gambling, prostitution, public nudity, suicide, and so on? There are all sorts of acts which are illegal on primarily moral grounds. We have always legislated morality, and we always will. People only recognize and complain about it when a particular law interferes with their own proclivities (typically of the sexual nature).
1.15.2009 8:02pm
wooga:
BTW David,
Pre-marital sex, sodomy, and adultery used to be illegal. Such laws were not unusual until about 1983. So you are under 45.
1.15.2009 8:04pm
ReaderY:
As to #4 you forgot the fornication law,

SECTION 16-15-80. "Fornication" defined.

"Fornication" is the living together and carnal intercourse with each other or habitual carnal intercourse with each other without living together of a man and woman, both being unmarried.

Agreed that an isolated (i.e. non-habitual) act is does not come under the law.
1.15.2009 8:31pm
Katl L (mail):
and still cannot understand how vulgar speech exemplifies the presence of an enlightened mind"

So then?


Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Satyrarum
nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli
causa, sed ignotis perierunt mortibus illi,
Cunnus is today the c word
Hume quoting Horatius, in lines copied by Byron in don Juan ( without the 4 lettes words,btw):
as well as the common licentiousness and immodesty of their stile, Quicunque impudicus, adulter, ganeo, manu, ventre, pene, bona patria laceraverat, says SALLUST in one of the gravest and most moral passages of his history. *39Nam fuit ante Helenam Cunnus teterrima belli Causa, is an expression of HORACE, in tracing the origin of moral good and evil. *40 OVID and LUCRETIUS *41 are almost as licentious in their stile as Lord ROCHESTER; *42 though the former were fine gentlemen and delicate writers, and the latter, g from the corruptions of that court, in which he lived, seems to have thrown off all regard to shame and decency. JUVENAL *43 inculcates modesty with great zeal; but sets a very bad example of it, if we consider the impudence of his expressions
And not to mention Aristofanes or Catulus
1.15.2009 8:55pm
KarL m (mail):
When Pelosi calls the House Minority Leader , does she become a felon?
1.15.2009 9:08pm
AlanO:
The ironic thing is that your average police officer who would be expected to enforce this law (assuming he is like 99% of his breathern) uses the work "fuck" in his everyday speech like most people use ketchup on french fries - out of a sense of ingrained habit and in great excess. For if a typical cop doesn't say "fuck" every 9.5 seconds he will die of cardiac arrest. It's like swimming for a shark.
1.15.2009 10:15pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
The proposition that society should legislate "class" cannot survive exposure to actual legislators.
1.15.2009 10:20pm
Cornellian (mail):
Nor is there any reason to think that any state would establish a church today. There is zero support for this on the Religious Right. THe objection is to absurd arguments about whether an historical cross on the Los Angeles County seal is an "establishment of religion."

Historical emblems and monuments are currently where the line is drawn, but if the law were clear that such monuments are perfectly acceptable, at least most of the time, there's no reason to think anyone who feels strongly about the issue will just pack up, go home, or at least find some other Amendment to think about. They'll just find some other Establishment Clause related issue to fight about.
1.15.2009 10:50pm
Cornellian (mail):
The ironic thing is that your average police officer who would be expected to enforce this law (assuming he is like 99% of his breathern) uses the work "fuck" in his everyday speech like most people use ketchup on french fries - out of a sense of ingrained habit and in great excess.

Using ketchup on fries is also quite enjoyable and makes a fun activity (eating fries) even better. In contrast, mixing swear words with one's speech - oh never mind.
1.15.2009 10:51pm
magisterbibendi:
It's unfortunate that legislators can't be impeached for sponsoring such obviously unconstitutional legislation.
1.15.2009 11:03pm
SCAnonymous:
Zubon's comment reminds me of an incident when I was teaching (at a Lutheran college in the state in question) when there was a new policy introduced banning any internet access of 'pornography or other morally unacceptable material.' I went here, copied from this passage, and sent the following quote to the author along with a query as to whether I had violated the policy:

Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father." So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, "Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father." So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.
1.15.2009 11:35pm
theobromophile (www):
It's a belated (by a few decades) response to the British Invasion, of which Sen. Ford has just taken notice.

That all aside, what counts as "knowingly" swearing? If "What the [expletive]" comes out of one's mouth accidentally, is that person a felon?
1.16.2009 12:41am
SeaDrive:
The armed forces would have to cease to exist.
1.16.2009 11:02am
Sparky:
Twat is interesting because it's the only word know applying to a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning.

Whaaa?!? What about the C-word itself? I mean, the C-word can be used to mean jerk or idiot, but surely that is only a metaphorical application of the primary meaning. And anyway, twat can be used to mean jerk or idiot.

Also vagina.
1.16.2009 11:10am
NickM (mail) (www):

No DA will ever bring charges based on this law. No LEO could reasonably believe that the law is constitutional (contrast with, e.g. Krull). Passing this law will not burden anyone with anything.


No state legislator could reasonably believe the bill would be constitutional either. Given a sizable population, there's always someone stupid, crazy, or venal enough to do something thoroughly unreasonable. And that doesn't even take citizen's arrests into count.

Nick
1.16.2009 2:21pm
Gray Ghost:
The greatest adjective in the English language is "pulchritudinous".

GG
1.16.2009 2:51pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Mr. Cramer:

I assume you meant to type the word "old" in your last sentence. I'm not really sure what my views on high v. low class ought to have to do with the constraints the First Amendment imposes on state governments, but no, I don't think it is classy to swear in front of children. I just think it's silly to give the state the power to ban such activity.
If you want to discourage such vulgar activity, that's one way to do it. I'm pretty sure that Senator Ford's proposal is defective (especially because of making it a felony), but the one thing that liberals all agree upon is that if you want to discourage something that is socially destructive, pass a law. It won't make it go away, but it will discourage it.

and:


Is this an appropriate time to comment not only that there may be too many criminal laws but that too many of them are felonies?
I already did, above. Infraction, sure. But a felony? Dumb.
1.16.2009 10:50pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Nor is there any reason to think that any state would establish a church today. There is zero support for this on the Religious Right. THe objection is to absurd arguments about whether an historical cross on the Los Angeles County seal is an "establishment of religion."

Historical emblems and monuments are currently where the line is drawn, but if the law were clear that such monuments are perfectly acceptable, at least most of the time, there's no reason to think anyone who feels strongly about the issue will just pack up, go home, or at least find some other Amendment to think about. They'll just find some other Establishment Clause related issue to fight about.
You mean that they might actually want the Court to follow original intent on this?
1.16.2009 10:52pm
Nick Rivera (www):
Didn't they do this in the movie Demolition Man?
1.18.2009 7:29am

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