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South Carolina Seeking To Outlaw Profanity 849

MBGMorden writes "It looks like in an act that defies common sense, a bill has been introduced in the South Carolina State Senate that seeks to outlaw the use of profanity. According to the bill it would become a felony (punishable by a fine up to $5000 or up to 5 years in prison) 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.' I'm not sure if 'in writing' could be applied to the internet, but in any event this is scary stuff."


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South Carolina Seeking To Outlaw Profanity

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  • Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:07PM (#26457427) Homepage Journal

    Don't think it can't happen. The hysteria-over-liberty mode of thinking that pervades every level of our legal and court system has resulted in significant erosion of all manner of what would, to a sensible person, seem to be rock-solid and unmovable declarations of constitutional rights.

    We have seen the right to remain silent turn into the right to be tortured until you say what they want to hear; we have seen the 4th amendment turned into an irrelevancy by nattering idiocy about your papers being in digital form; we have seen the commerce clause turned on its very head; we have seen the establishment of "free speech zones" and other 1984-ish/esque crushing of liberties; censorship is the accepted norm for "solving" disagreements about what we see, say and hear insofar as it might offend some poor, weak-willed moron; screams of "save the children", "terrorists" and "global warming" drive legislators to write, and pass, the most odious, anti-liberty and outright anti-American legislation on a daily basis.

    There's no limit to this, either; we have seen the specific directive not to pass ex post facto laws ignored at the congressional level and then whistle right through the supreme court; we have seen the explicit directive of the 2nd amendment's operative clause turned into the most moronic and sophist idiocy about "what is a militia?", a non-issue mined blindly and moronically out of the prefatory clause.

    Don't think it can't get worse. Ask yourself instead, why should you expect it to get any better?

  • Vague (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BorgAssimilator ( 1167391 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:13PM (#26457555)

    According to the bill it would become a felony (punishable by a fine up to $5000 or up to 5 years in prison) 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"

    Isn't that a little vague? Now, I don't really know that much about laws, but I did hear once that there's some kind of law in effect that keeps a bill from being passed unless it is specific enough. If a law like that exists, I wouldn't think this bill would meet that requirement.

    Either way though, this certainly seems to violate that first amendment thing...

  • by terrahertz ( 911030 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:22PM (#26457711)
    "Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate." - Bertrand Russell

    "Of all the strange "crimes" that human beings have legislated of nothing, "blasphemy" is the most amazing - with "obscenity" and "indecent exposure" fighting it out for the second and third place." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timmyd ( 108567 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:28PM (#26457835)

    It seems they're taking the "protect the children" route. That will probably help their odds of getting it passed. But one can only wonder how long it takes before something like this (if passed) would lead over into the virtual world, like how the protect act ( was able to convict someone to 20 years in prison for having cartoons which depict underage-looking girls engaging in sexual acts (

  • by techess ( 1322623 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:28PM (#26457843)

    Michigan had an anti-profanity passed in 1897. It outlawed cursing in front of woment or children. In 1989 a canoeist was charged with violating the law after hitting a rock with his canoe and releasing a stream of profanities in front of a family.

    He was actually found guilty the first time around. The court of appeals though threw out his case and the law. Here though if he had been convicted it would only have been a $75 fine and community service. []

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:46PM (#26458111) Homepage Journal
    Every ultra fundementatlist wants to control every action of every other person to fit thier own limitations. Everyone has to eat meat, or cannot eat meat. Everyone has to dress in a suit, or not.

    What a vague law like this does is two folds. It allows such scumbags to control what is and is not allowed in public. It is ok for the taxpayer to pay for the distribution of the ten commandants so a certain christian beliefs can be forced onto the public, or for the public to pay for teachers to sit there and do nothing while students are forced to pray, but not ok for libraries to carry Harry Potter because it is profane.

    Second, it allows scum bags to target people they don't like. You don't like the color of your neighbor, turn him in for exposing your kid to profanity. It is simple enough to do.

    Just to get an idea if this was the purpose of such laws, or if I was being paraniod,I took a look at the SPLC hate group map. South Carolina has the largest number of hate groups in that area, about one hate group per 100,000 persons. In comparison, the reletively conservative state of Texas has about 1 hate group per 350,000 persons. I am not sure if there is a state with a higher percentage of hate groups.

    Really this is likely just another effect of the seating of the soon to be current US president. States like this, and thier white population, has been courted by the republicans for 40 years, rallied by the fear of the person who looks differnt. Times have changed, but the fear mongering has lasting effect.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:46PM (#26458119)
    Didn't we just remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan for pulling shit very similar to this?
  • Re:Pah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @08:00PM (#26458321)

    Are there ever going to be enough laws? In 1000 years time will there be the need for a law which doesn't exist now? These fuckers aren't willingly going to just put down their pens and stop. We need to stop them.

  • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @08:43PM (#26458901) Journal

    The Constitution did not have "under God" added in the 1950s. It simply did not. No matter what you may have heard, it did not. Go back to Civics or Social Studies or Happy-Feel-Good-Hippies-R-Us or whatever your lackluster school calls it these days and kick your teacher in the ass if you were taught that anyone added "under God" to the Constitution.

  • Re:CALM DOWN (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @08:56PM (#26459071)
    OK. So who keeps electing this genius?
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:15PM (#26459319) Journal

    No, there's no law that says you can't pass bad laws. Courts can strike down laws that violate the Constitution, or laws (or more usually, parts of laws) that are too vague to be enforceable, but that's after the law gets passed, and usually not until somebody tries to enforce it.

    But this law isn't "void for vagueness" - courts, including the US Supreme Court, have allowed obscenity laws that have "community standards" rather than explicit definitions, and Justice Potter Stewart famously said about obscenity "I know it when I see it". This law's sufficiently clear and way over-the-top about what it's trying to prohibit, it's just blatantly unconstitutional.

    The real question is why the politician is trying to propose such a law when he should know better. Is he really ignorant enough not to know better (unlikely, but quite possible)? Is he trying to excite his base so they'll give him more money next election? Is he following a promise he made when he was running? Is he trying to get some other politicians to oppose the bill so he can accuse them of being in favor of profanity and obscenity? Or is he just being rude to the public?

  • Re:Ouch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anthony_Cargile ( 1336739 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:32PM (#26459533) Homepage
    Yeah, because if we do this then other states may soon follow, then hello censorship (although I fail to see how the first amendment does not automatically /dev/null this). There's another guy here on /. I know in real life (initials S.F.) - a hardcore libertarian that I'd hope finds out about this, because swearing is not something I want to have to do in a sound-proof room in my house after a hard day (see the connection between that and pot smoking? yeah, thats how bad it would be).

    But like an AC said above, this is only on the senate's desk, and has not even gone through the process of being voted on yet, so there is still time and possibly a chance that we don't have to censor ourselves here. Trust me, if this gets passed and other states get interested, we'll soon see how escalation is not just for privileges.
  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:35PM (#26459567) Journal

    What happens if I say
    "Fack you, you asz, gol dung motherflocker"
      I mean come on, how can this be enforced? Can I curse in foreign languages?, What if an English word sounds like a curse in another language, and someone hears it?
    Most of this seems to be aimed at prevention of the corruption of minors, and would rely on the subjective interpretation of the judge to determine if one is guilty or not.

  • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:38PM (#26459607)

    in Michigan we have a "no swearing" law and from time to time it gets used. It hasn't ever got far enough thru courts to actually get overturned, but usually it gets far enough to punsish somebody because it's only $100 or 30 days in jail. They had to be very careful when it was written to include the protection of "women and children" .. because disallowing adult men to swear at each other would be a first amendment violation! I've though this would be a great way to make a woman-free, child-free club by having a "swearing club" where men could exercise their freedom of speech... either courts would have to allow discrimination or they'd have to overturn the swearing ordinance!

  • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <[enderandrew] [at] []> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:40PM (#26459627) Homepage Journal []

    They already tried it.

    And while people defended voting for something clearly non-Constitutional by saying Congress doesn't determine what is Constitutional, I think the spirit of the 14th Amendment suggests the government should not pass bills that remove our basic rights. []

    I will write him a letter and tell him to fuck off. Watch him attempt to prosecute me. I'll fight that all day long and expose him for the idiot that he is.

    When you are an elected official in this country, perhaps you should be familiar with the Constitution. There is a growing trend of elected officials who apparently have never heard of the thing.

  • Re:Ouch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:00PM (#26459873) Homepage Journal

    Here in NY, my friend and I were threatened with arrest because my friend flipped off a neighbor who cut him off. The guy called the cops, cop shows up at my friends house and proceeds to tell us that making an "obscene gesture" is a crime.

    I once related this anecdote before here on /., and had to deal with some morons calling me a liar, saying that such a thing couldn't possibly have happened.

  • by ( 962820 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:01PM (#26459879)
    I would remind the reader who wants to be scrupulous about the Bible that, unlike U.S. English, none of the ancient languages associated with the Bible use a single word for "backside" and "donkey." But that stated, there's more in the Bible. To take a de-bowlderized translation I beat on for a while: The Uncensored Bible (exhibit one [], two []), or see a dialogue on what the Bible's "Behemoth" could be besides a dinosaur seen by men []. The Bible as it is presented today is somewhat bowlderized... but there is a lot to the Bible, even besides the passages that never seem to make it through modern translations clearly. Jonathan []
  • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davidphogan74 ( 623610 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:33PM (#26460231) Homepage

    A while ago in Buffalo NY I had a cop tell me it was illegal to swear at a police officer. (I answered a question, "Fuck no.)

    He was getting ready to handcuff me when another officer asked him to talk. A minute later, the second officer told me to not be an ass, but let me go.

    Fortunately most cops aren't dumb like that, but a few are.

  • Re:Ouch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by reeeh2000 ( 1328037 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:39PM (#26460293) Homepage
    So just out of curiosity, what happens to the preachers talking about eternal damnation and hellfire?
  • Re:Pah! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bad D.N.A. ( 753582 ) <baddna@gma i l .com> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @11:12PM (#26460579)

    Not to belabor the point but what about the state of:

    Illinois (Blagojevich, current)
    New York (Spitzer, 2008)
    North Carolina (Edwards, 2008)
    New Jersey (McGreevey, 2004)
    Connecticut (Rowland, 2004)
    Arizona (Mecham, 1998)


    It seems that the quality of politicians has little relationship to voting population, geographical region, or political affiliation...
  • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macwhiz ( 134202 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @12:32AM (#26461355)

    One of my ex-girlfriends was of Hispanic descent, and was born in New Mexico. While living in Rochester, NY, she was driving her mother's Ford Escort, which had New Mexico plates on it.

    One evening, a Rochester police officer followed her home to our suburban apartment from her downtown office. In the parking lot, he proceeded to detain her and demand that she present her green card, since she was obviously a Mexican given the plates on her car. The fact that she had a valid New York driver's license, and plenty of other supporting identification documents, didn't override the damning evidence of the registration tags for this officer.

    The ex-girlfriend, having relatives who were cops, politely objected. The officer apparently called his sergeant for backup. When the sergeant arrived, he educated the patrolman on the fact that New Mexico is part of the United States, and people from New Mexico are U.S. citizens who do not need green cards...

    There are plenty of intelligent cops out there. There are also some astoundingly stupid ones. This is why we have laws and Constitutions that limit police power.

  • Re:Ouch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @01:06AM (#26461679) Journal

    And by "they", I mean the people who don't know what the 14th amendment says. My point was about "education" and the state of it today in the US.

    If I were in charge, I'd require a full semester of US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and other important founding documents of our nation, before one could graduate from HS.

    And while we are at it, why don't we have a HS diploma requirement for voting?

  • Re:S/he (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iq in binary ( 305246 ) <[iq_in_binary] [at] []> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:35AM (#26463523) Homepage

    So, in essence, you want to eradicate masculinity in the English language completely. I'm guessing you're a feminist.

    First problem: confusion. There are a plethora of unisex names in American society. Casey, Stacey, Aaron/Erin, Alex, just to name a few. The neutering of "he" and "his" when using those names as the subject of a sentence is only going to result in confusion when that name turns out to be masculine instead of feminine.

    Second problem: identity. The presence of only one sex in a language never works. Hence the reason there are no languages that have only one sex. Russian, Spanish, English, Czech, and Slavic are all languages I know at least a few words in, and all of them have at least 2 sexes present, they have to. Sexuality is a major and important part of our identity, and is often how we personalize ourselves within our speech. You wouldn't appreciate it in the least if I referred to you as a handsome man (or handsome for that matter, it is a masculine adjective; whereas beautiful is unisex, and pretty is feminine), nor would I appreciate it if you referred to me as a pretty woman.

    Third problem: sexuality. Sex is half of our identity. It drives our instincts and our demeanor. Masculinity in communication is just as important as neuter or femininity, for the simple reason that it needs to be communicated. Neutering the adjectives that describe men as men only alienates, and does not help facilitate communication. Women are vastly superior at communication on average than men, so it may not bother or hinder them as much, but men identify themselves in everything they do. From work, to play, to speech and even in nonverbal communication, they identify themselves as men. Taking away that ability to do so in speech serves absolutely no purpose, nor any service to a society as a whole.

    On the other hand, I don't find any problem with simply eliminating the feminine form of most nouns, such as waitress or hostess or even actress, simply because the words that were feminized in the first place held no particular masculine form. The Marines did it in no distasteful fashion when they eliminated the term Woman Marine, because a Marine is a Marine, whether female or not. It's a great example of the seamless conversion from sexual centric speech to actual speech. A pilot is a pilot, a soldier a soldier, a man a man, and a woman a woman. Your job doesn't change because of your breasts, your sex does.

    In conclusion, nothing will be served by neutering masculine adjectives in the English language, it will only make things stupid.

  • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:39AM (#26463873) Homepage Journal

    I actually WAS arrested for #6 once, though it was a false arrest. I asked them if they wanted us to leave (it's common for Buffalo cops to tell groups of young people congregating to leave) and they said no, etc., arrested me.

    In the arrest report, it says that I refused to comply with an order to disperse, and I was charged with disorderly conduct.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2009 @09:19AM (#26464465)

    Had to wait a few minutes after the Lenny Bruce post, but why the hell does everyone insist on lumping Sanford in with all the rest of the fucked up shit in our state? If you don't like Sanford, fine, but don't connect him with this abortion of a bill. Please take a look at the Cato Institute and read the damn papers. The vast majority of state reps and senators hate Sanford because he is changing the good old boy system, insisting on accountability, and dozens of other changes.

    Do you have any clue that Sanford was the only U.S. Representative to honor his pledge to abide by term limits and not run for additional terms? There is a reason Sanford got re-elected as Governor, because shudder to think, he actually act the was he speaks.

    Ford is a dumbass, but he is also a politically connected twenty some term black Democrat who gets re-elected because he will listen to the little old ladies who don't want to hear profanity, or the lazy union fucks who want a job for life driving a forklift and making more than engineers, programmers, college professors and a good number of jobs requiring higher education. The reason we may or already havelost the Maersk shipping contract is because of the fucking unions. Thank the god I don't believe in that we are still a right to work state.

    'nuff profanity and SC related ranting for you?

    For those of you from Canada, this is the equivalent of an MP's personal bill. Please forgive the half assed reference.

    By the way, reeeh2000 let me know when the profanity rally is scheduled and I'll join you. See, people of different political persuasions can get together and agree on some things.

  • FYI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 15, 2009 @10:36AM (#26465265)
    Robert Ford is a complete flake and is not taken seriously in the SC General Assembly. He introduces these sort of nutball bills all the time. He's also currently running for governor (the election isn't even until 2010), trying to bring back video poker, and probably trying to make contact with the aliens too.
  • by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @02:01PM (#26469445)

    What about things like defamation or slander? Screaming 'fire' in a crowded theater is a popular one too.

    Don't get me wrong, I fully support freedom of speech, religion, etc. but it's a fair question to pose if you want to call freedom of speech absolute. Should I have the right to announce on TV that you're a gay transexual pregnant with your own father's child if it's untrue? (if it is, Jerry Springer is looking for you)

    Personally I think respect and support the right to say anything true or thought to be true and express any belief opinion or similar with the caveat that you're responsible if you knowingly mis-represent facts and it causes harm to others...or something like that.

  • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <[enderandrew] [at] []> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @02:19PM (#26469857) Homepage Journal

    Again, I said I know judges have made those rulings. I'm saying I disagree with those rulings. Show me where the Constitution says the 1st Amendment is a sometime thing, or that exceptions should be made.

    Judges should not legislate from the bench. They should not have the authority to effectively create new legislation.

    The 1st Amendment does not make provisions for what should be illegal. It says that speech is protected, period.

    And as I posted to the other person, you can have absolute free speech. If you can prove that something I said caused harm, then you take me to court on the basis of the harm I caused. However you don't make it a blanket statement that it is illegal to say anything that might possibly cause harm.

    ie, the right to swing your fist extends to the tip of my nose.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982