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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?

    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Funny)

      by reeeh2000 ( 1328037 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:13PM (#26457557) Homepage
      fuck, now i have to go to the fucking state house and tell Sanford and all the other asshole to gtfo. Who's with me! Imagine, a bunch of Slashdotters holding up signs that say Get the Fuck out. I hate living in this state with these fucking retards. Fuck!
    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Funny)

      by zobier ( 585066 ) <zobier@ z o> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:21PM (#26457701)

      The one article where the trolls and flamebait would be on-topic and you go and post a reasonable FP!

    • 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 (

    • If you outlaw profanity, only outlaws will have profanity.

    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:08PM (#26459969) Journal

      censorship is the accepted norm for "solving" disagreements about what we see, say and hear

      Censorship in America is largely self-imposed, by industries, not something handed down from the government.

      why should you expect it to get any better?

      Because this particular attempt is so much of a violation of the first amendment, it's laughable. It would go to the Supreme Court, and that law would be overturned, very likely with plenty of bad press all around.

  • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:08PM (#26457431)
    Fuck that shit.
  • Wha... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slugtastic ( 1437569 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:09PM (#26457465)
    What about Freedom of speech?
  • 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 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?

  • Definition (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:15PM (#26457589)

    Well? What is it? You need to define profanity before you can outlaw it.

    Frankly I find skinny good looking women who wear too much clothing to be vulgar. I find the number three pronounced as free offensive. I think puppies are indecent

    However, I find skinny good looking women who wear next to no clothing - acceptable.

  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:15PM (#26457591)

    I checked the calendar and today is definitely not April 1st, so somewhere this story must ultimately lead back to an Onion.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:17PM (#26457635)

    I know a lot of these guys are hopelessly stuck in the past, but I think being stuck in 1630s Massachusetts is going a little overboard.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:45PM (#26458105)

      I don't think there is something anybody could say or write that is obscene as flying the Confederate battle flag of the army of North Virginia from the state house of state with a large black population.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Even worst, it's ammending a bill from 1976, which outlaws the following (among other things)
      "Seduction under promise of marriage."
      "Communicating obscene messages to other persons without consent."

      I know every state in the United States has laws that should probably be better defined or come off the books all together. I would think that if you are going to add to a bill, you would update that bill at the same time. That way prostitution wouldn't carry a fine of 200 dollars and thirty days in j

  • Pah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:17PM (#26457639) Journal

    It isn't scary, it's stupid. If it ever passes, it's going to get struck down. Tell me, South Carolina, did you elect a pack of retards, because that's the only rational explanation.

  • 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
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:26PM (#26457799)

    Because I would break that law in the process.

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:27PM (#26457827)

    Sons of bitches just want to oppress self-expression. What impact will this have on music and literature. Do have any idea how many fucking books have swear words?

  • 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. []

  • Unenforceable. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:30PM (#26457867)

    Unless S.C. wants to outlaw all language altogether, they're looking at something that's not even enforceable. So they ban your standard fucks, shits, and cunts. Awesome. Are they thinking new euphemisms and curses aren't going to spring up to fill the void? Failing creation of new words, are they going to prosecute the intent behind words used? If I can't express my displeasure about my boss in South Carolina using traditional profanity, will they go after me if I call him a doody-head?

    Funny thing about language. It's creative and evolves. Even profanity is changing and twisting meaning - in some (usually male) teenagers today, 'fuck' is used like 'like' or 'um' might be used by certain other groups of people. There may not necessarily be any obscene intent behind the word, and may just be used as filler.

  • by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:30PM (#26457879) Journal

    Slashdotters are courageously rebelling against this law by using a lot of swearwords.

    Thanks Slashdot, the worlds takes nerds more seriously right now.

  • vulgar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:32PM (#26457909)

    According to this here [], that would be something that is:

          1. (classical sense) Having to do with ordinary, common people.
          2. Rude, uncouth, distasteful, obscene.

    Looking up obscene [] results in:

          1. Offensive to the current standards of decency or morality
          2. Lewd or lustful
          3. Disgusting or repulsive
          4. Beyond all reason
          5. Liable to deprave or corrupt

    This law qualifies at least for 3 and 4. Depending on your point of view, for all of them.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:34PM (#26457959)
    If you guys _still_ want to secede from the US, I think now we'd be willing to reconsider! Keep doing stuff like this, and it will be an easy decision. You're embarrassing all of us! Yours truly, A Yankee
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:39PM (#26458015)
    Now might be a really good time to invest in adult bookstores located right on your southern border! Remember, every mind-bogglingly stupid, unenforceable law is also a business opportunity!
  • Not a big deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by __aagmrb7289 ( 652113 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:44PM (#26458079) Journal
    It is sponsored by ONE guy, and it was instantly referred to committee. Why is this even news? There is ALWAYS one guy that wants to stick his penis in the whole to see what happens... why should a group like a state's congress be any different?
  • 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?
  • oy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ethanol ( 176321 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:49PM (#26458163)

    As my five-year-old son used to say when he was experimenting with profanity but hadn't gotten the hang of it yet, "Oh, for heaven's fuck."

  • by dweller_below ( 136040 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:55PM (#26458247)

    I thought that my legislators were 'World Class' crazy (Utah).

    It looks like we aren't even playing in the big leagues.

    This level of crazy is a delicate balancing act. You have to be dumb enough to think that this is a good idea, but somehow manage to keep from drowning in the shower.

    Is there any way to tell if the responsible parties have indoor plumbing? How do they avoid rain?


  • by 6Yankee ( 597075 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @08:06PM (#26458403)
    ...but what does that Perl do?
  • Kansas envy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @08:12PM (#26458477) Homepage Journal

    Creationism was already taken.

    There are still many ways states can distinguish themselves, though. Try re-legalizing slavery. Have a governor declare himself the State Duke for life. Totally outlaw alcohol. Declare pi to be 3.0. Require residents to quarter soldiers.

  • CALM DOWN (Score:5, Informative)

    by sourcehunter ( 233036 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @08:15PM (#26458519) Homepage
    Ok folks - I live in SC - So I can say with some certanty - CALM DOWN.

    1) This is just a BILL introduced in the Senate. I don't see anything on the House calendar indicating that it was also filed there, and if there was a SERIOUS push to make this happen, you'd see a similar bill in the house.

    2) He submitted this SAME BILL the last THREE sessions. Thats the last 6 years. See session 117 [], 116 [] and 115 []. Quite frankly I didn't go back any further but he may have introduced this same bill before that, too. EVERY TIME this bill has been introduced, it has died in committee.

    3) This guy has a terrible clearance rate. ZERO general bills on which he's the primary sponsor have passed in the last few sessions .

    4) I bet if you look, you'll find this same type of legislation popping up in other state houses or county councils... and dying just as quickly. Someone's always going to try - doesn't mean they'll get anywhere and DOES NOT mean to freak out.
  • by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:02PM (#26459167) Journal

    a felony punishable by a fine up to $5000 or up to 5 years in prison

    Who the fuck thought that shit was a reasonable punishment for such a minor fucking transgression? Lemme get this fucking straight -- you can drive 100 miles an hour down the god damn freeway, potentially putting fucking lives at risk, and probably get off with no more than a few days in jail, at worst, but if you fucking swear in the process, you're looking at five fucking years?

    What the fuck?

    It is unlawful 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.

    Well, at least they had the foresight to clearly define a standard for determining what is and isn't profanity. And clearly outlined the ways in which this wouldn't constitute a violation of the first amendment.</sarcasm>

  • Contact Senator Ford (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @09:19PM (#26459365) Homepage Journal

    * Robert Ford [D]
            Dist. No. 42 - Charleston Co.
    (H) P.O. Box 21302, Charleston, 29413

            Bus. (843) 813-1777 Home (843) 852-0777
    (C) 506 Gressette Bldg., Columbia, 29201

            Bus. (803) 212-6124 Home (803) 798-9220

  • by rfc1394 ( 155777 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @10:02PM (#26459893) Homepage Journal
    I wanted to be fucking funny by posting a goddamn comment with shitty profanity in it, only problem was I got fucked in the ass when the stupid browser ate my comment, and twice no less. This law is so motherfucking unconstitutional as to be dead the instant the son-of-a-bitch is enacted, but that's not why I'm mad; I'm actually kind of amused at how assinine these cocksuckers in the state capital can be. What I'm mad about is the browser ate my comments, twice and I let it get away with it.

    Stupid Asshole me allows this shitty browser to lose what I typed in here, then I re-enter the message but instead of using an external program to store the comment until I could post it, I allow myself to be fucked-in-the-ass a second time and it loses my comment while I'm formatting it. I am typing this in a separate program, I won't get bit a third time.

    Here's how the statute is unconstitutional:

    • Cohen v. California [] , 403 U.S. 15 (1971), guy is wearing jacket in the county courthouse (but not in the courtrooms) which reads "fuck the draft." Is convicted for disturbing the peace. Conviction overturned; these mere words are inadequate to constitute disturbing the peace, and the idea does have First Amendment Protection
    • People v. Boomer, 655 N.W.2d 255 (Mich. App. 2002), guy in canoe hits rock, dumps him into river, he responds with loud curses that are heard quite a distance away by police officer and a family with kids.

      The police officer ticketed Boomer, citing him for violating a more than 100-year-old Michigan law that criminalized the use of profane language in front of women and children.

      The Michigan Court of Appeals threw out Boomer's conviction and overturned the Michigan law, stating that "allowing a prosecution where one utters 'insulting' language could possibly subject a vast percentage of the populace to a misdemeanor conviction." The court went on to hold that the law violated the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and that it would be "difficult to conceive of a statute that would be more vague." First Amendment Center []

    • Idaho v. Suiter [] (2003), man goes to police station to talk to them about a check fraud case dealing with his friend, but apparently they can't do anything with him because he's not the one who committed the crime. This gets him mad, and after he's told to leave, tells the cop to go fuck himself, and turns to walk out the door; is charged and convicted for disturbing the peace. Idaho Court of Appeals upholds conviction. Idaho Supreme Court overturns conviction; "the phrase was the vulgar equivalent of saying 'go jump in the lake.'"

    There are far too many others to list, but even misdemeanor or fine-only charges have been struck down; a felony law wouldn't stand 30 seconds.

  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @01:57AM (#26462091)

    Everybody likes to make fun of the backwards southerners but expressing obscenity is already a violation in New York with wonderfully vague wording for the convenience of the jackboots and brown shirts.

    Section 240.20 Disorderly conduct

      A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:


      3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or


      Disorderly conduct is a violation.

  • by arbitraryaardvark ( 845916 ) <> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:18AM (#26462861) Homepage Journal

    SECTION 1. Political power in people.
    All political power is vested in and derived from the people only, therefore, they have the right at all times to modify their form of government.
    SECTION 2. Religious freedom; freedom of speech; right of assembly and petition.
    The General Assembly shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government or any department thereof for a redress of grievances.

    Senator Robert Ford
    District 42 - Charleston Co.
    Contact Address:
    (H) P.O. Box 21302, Charleston, 29413

            Bus. (843) 813-1777 Home (843) 852-0777
    (C) 506 Gressette Bldg., Columbia, 29201

            Bus. (803) 212-6124 Home (803) 798-9220

    It's 3 am here. I'm sure senator ford would like to hear from you about his bill. Feel free to call collect. [] looks like a badaas tho, don't ring his doorbell.

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