Public swearing outlawed in Massachusetts town

Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:38pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Lobbing F-bombs and other curses across the leafy streets of Middleborough, Massachusetts is now an offense punishable by a $20 ticket.

The ordinance outlawing public swearing, approved by town residents on Monday night, was the brainchild of Mimi DuPhily, a member of the town's beautification committee.

She pushed for the law after becoming upset over loud swearing by teenagers hanging around the small town about 50 miles south of Boston.

"We're not talking about just conversation but screaming it across the street," DuPhily, 63, a former selectman, said in an interview on Tuesday.

"Dropping F-bombs and so on. It was the same group of kids. It was very irresponsible behavior, and it was getting out of hand."

The ordinance does not specify which curses are banned, and police can decide whether to ticket offenders.

"It does not affect you if you are sitting at a café," said DuPhily. "It only affects you if you are verbally abusing someone across the street."

Legal analysts said the law could raise issues for the town under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Part of the Bill of Rights, the amendment prohibits the making of any law that abridges freedom of speech, among other things.

DuPhily said her support for the law, which passed 183-50 at the meeting, has made her an object of ridicule in the media.

"The talk radio is making hysterical fun of me. They're calling me the granny-nanny," she said. "People didn't know what to do. They felt uncomfortable walking down the street with their kids."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg)

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Comments (1)
Sonorama wrote:
Oh look, free speech is getting throttled.

Jun 12, 2012 7:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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