No swearing? Fuck that.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this.

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. — Residents in Middleborough have voted to make the foul-mouthed among them pay fines for swearing in public.

At a town meeting Monday night, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

Say what?  You’d better issue a lot of $20 tickets to pay for the lawsuit that’s coming your way.

And what is profane?  Could people say, “I smashed a bunny rabbit into bloody bits with a sledge hammer and laughed my heiny off?”  That’s pretty profane in my eyes.  If they could say something like that in public but not, “fuck” then these people have some really fucked up priorities.

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.

I’m really happy about it,” Mimi Duphily, a store owner and former town selectwoman, said after the vote. “I’m sure there’s going to be some fallout, but I think what we did was necessary.”

You do not get off the hook for only censoring people sometimes, like when their speech is really offensive.  It is precisely for that kind of speech that the first amendment was invented.  Nobody needs protection for inoffensive speech.

If they’re getting loud and causing a disturbance in public, then you get them for causing a disturbance.  If using naughty words is just offending people then what you did was place someone’s sense of propriety over someone else’s right to say what they please.  That’s simply wrong.  You have the right to be offended.  You do not have the right to control what other people say.

Fuck the residents of Middleborough who voted in favor of this measure.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jon Voisey

    Where’s George Carlin when you need him?

    • Skip White

      …as practically every word in a sentence, “Fuck the fucking fuckers.”

  • Steerpike

    You have the right to be offended. What you do NOT have is the right NOT to be offended.

  • Alverant

    It’s also enforced at the police officer’s discression. So if one is bored or doesn’t like who’s saying it or decides that any insult to his beliefs qualifies as swearing then you’re pretty much SOL. Likewise if the cop is your friend or agrees with your use of swearing then you could get off the hook. I can see it now, some little old lady yelling at a cop saying, “That n—-r said the word ‘frack’! Now I don’t know what that means but I know a profanity when I hear it. Now write him a ticket!”

    This law won’t survive its first legal challenge.

  • williamrussom

    Now, just how long will it be before they are sued? Surely it won’t be long.

  • eric

    This is how the courts should respond (but won’t).

    • Wes

      Nope, but I imagine that they will respond like this.

  • John Horstman

    “Profanity” counts as Disorderly Conduct here in Milwaukee, WI, if officers care to enforce it (so far I’ve only seen it enforced at two different protests, one anti-Iraq-war, the other anti-Bush, as a flimsy excuse to arrest people). My friend’s lawyer said it had been challenged and upheld a number of times, which I think is bullshit (not that I disbelieve it, just that I disagree), since the 1st Amendment both protects free expression (and the whole point is to protect speech/expression most people dislike, else there would be no need for the law) AND bars establishment of religious law (“profane” is defined in terms of “sacred”, and sacredness is an undeniably religious concept). Also, in these specific cases, the ‘profanity’ was part of political speech, which is ALWAYS protected.

    Anyway, as I understand it, this is not even remotely rare (look up Disorderly Conduct or the similar catch-all laws in most municipalities), and it has been held to be constitutional, even if it’s completely fucked-up. The judge in my friend’s case eventually dismissed the charges, not wanting to deal with the massive amounts of paperwork my friend’s lawyer kept filing appealing the decision every time my friend failed to do the community service he was ordered to do as part of his No Contest plea.

  • Zack

    Well it’s fun that they’ve made the fine just large enough for anyone to sue them after one ticket.

  • tynk

    Added Ginsburg, “In short, freedom of speech means the freedom of fucking speech, you ignorant cocksuckers.”

    Well said fake Ginsburg, well said…

  • Adam

    Oh no, someone might hear a bad word. OMG, the apocalypse is upon us!

    To anyone offended by a word: Shut the fuck up, and get the fuck over it, you fucking spineless pussy!

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

      What’s wrong with pussies? I rather like them, and certainly don’t see anything shameful about them.

    • dysomniak

      Calling someone a “pussy” is not “just a word”, it’s an expression of derision towards half the human race. You suppurating misogynist boil.

      • Adam

        Another spineless pussy offended by a word. How exactly is me using the word “pussy” to mean “weak and spineless person” make me a misogynist? Context affects word meaning. Learn that before attempting to insult people.

        • dysomniak

          I’m not offended by the word, I’m offended by the assertion that female = weak. And if you can’t see that then you truly have no clue.

        • Wes

          The issue with using “pussy” to mean “wimp” is that the word only makes sense used that way IF you consider women to be weak and cowardly. Nothing about a pussy itself is actually weak. It gets the label because it’s inherently feminine.

          Granted, in our society, the word “pussy” has grown to mean “wimp” quite apart from its original association with a vagina, so it’s possible for a person to use it without actually meaning anything derogatory toward women. However, the association is strong enough that I think use of the word itself is inherently misogynistic, even if you don’t mean it that way. I’m no fan of word policing in general, so I understand why you’d react angrily to a suggestion that you shouldn’t use a particular word, but I think if you take a step back, you’ll see what people are talking about, and hopefully choose a different word in the future.

          • kennypo65

            I can’t believe you two pussies are having this discussion on this thread. Ever heard of irony? Shut the fuck up, pussy!

  • Jeff

    This is the next town over from me. I’m very tempted to go over there to test the boundries of this law. I’m very curious as to where the profanity line is drawn. In the correct context you can make almost any word seem offensive. From what I’ve read it seems it is a judgement call to be made by those who enforce the law.

    Glad to see things are going so well over there that this was the biggest problem they had to solve.


    • Richard

      As a fellow resident of mass. I am frankly embarrassed to live in the general vicinity. Oy.

  • Mark

    Well, a law like this should be no problem for atheists since they are “good without god.”

    • eric

      Non-sequitur much? How is a lack of belief in god connected to approving of censorship of swear words?

  • left0ver1under

    And what is profane? Could people say, “I smashed a bunny rabbit into bloody bits with a sledge hammer and laughed my heiny off?” That’s pretty profane in my eyes.

    Or just recently, christians who openly called for the murder of gay people. That’s far worse than any use of “four letter words” I’ve ever heard. I put those christians on the same level as the KKK calling for the murder of non-whites; then again, the KKK are christians.

    XKCD spoke only about writing on the internet, but it applies to speaking publicly as well:

    And as George Carlin said, they’re only words.

    I do not agree with the uptight pinheads when I say that profanity is overused. Some words should be used like salt or pepper, for effect in the appropriate place. But an outright ban on saying them is idiocy. Or to say it another way:

    Profanity where necessary, but not necessarily profanity.

  • karmakin

    You know, I’m going to say something different and send a big old FUCK YOU to this town for the blatant ageism on display here. It’s obvious they have every intention of using this to go after young people, and that’s why it exists.


    (Although it’s probably better than killing them all and dumping them under an old castle/church grounds)

    • thunk = ∫ SQRRAWK! d(MQG) + C

      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.

      Sigh. Always those uppity teens.

      You know we’re all bad apples that go around being miscreants and swearing and everything, unlike those upstanding seniors. Note that they’re the ones with the voting power*

      Fuck the motherfucking assholes.

      *not passing judgment on that

  • grumpyoldfart

    They want to get back to the good old days … when I was a lad (in Adelaide, Sth Aus) they still had laws against loitering, consorting, vagrancy, Sunday sports, obscene language, and public inebriation – and the street lights were turned off at 1am. Good old days my arse!

    • John Morales


      Hey, I arrived in Adelaide when I was 11 years old!

      (Yeah, I remember)

  • John Morales

    So stupid, this conflation!

    Swearing, cursing, profanity, blasphemy, obscenity and vulgarism are all different things which people unthinkingly conflate.

    (None are sins, but people are ignorant)