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Town takes aim at potty-mouths

David Epps's picture

The town of Middleborough, Mass., is “fed up with public swearing” and thinks “forcing the potty-mouthed to pay up might be the right antidote,” according to a report by the Associated Press. The town’s police chief offered a proposal that would allow for the imposition of a $20 fine for “public swearing.”

The proposal, which passed earlier this week by a huge majority, will not affect swearing used in private conversations but is intended to crack down on loud, profanity-laden conversations used especially by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks. Both merchants and city officials say they are tired of citizens and customers being bombarded by “the foulest language imaginable.”

Middleborough, a town of about 20,000 residents, has had a law against public profanity since 1968, but, because that bylaw essentially makes cursing a crime, it has rarely if ever been enforced, officials said, because it simply would not merit the time and expense to pursue a case through the courts.

The new ordinance would decriminalize public profanity, allowing police to write tickets as they would for a traffic violation. The ordinance also decriminalizes certain types of disorderly conduct, public drinking and marijuana use, and dumping snow on a roadway. The vote authorized the police to issue $20 civil tickets to anyone who publicly “accosts” another person verbally with profanity.

Some have loudly argued that the measure violates a person’s right to free speech while others contend that people should have a right to take their children to public places without having them assaulted by profane language.

Of course, in the past, people generally policed themselves. The most profane sailors and Marines (who have a reputation for rough language) instinctively knew better than to take barracks language into places where children, women, and ordinary citizens might be offended or affected.

Some citizens have taken matters into their own hands confronting potty-mouthed people in restaurants and other public places. Often the only thing they get for their trouble is a loud retort full of expletives not fit for print. Some have even been threatened by these classless creeps.

If civility and good breeding aren’t dead, they surely are on life support. It is a shame that the good people of Middleborough, Mass., have felt the need to force people to do what they surely should already know to do – but good for them!

Maybe after a few $20 fines, the foul mouths will wise up and the blue air will begin to clear.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He may be contacted at]


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