Free speech vs. verbal pollution
BOSTON — Oh #&%?!!!
Most people have moments when they wish their expletives were deleted. Particularly, when children - with their innate recording/inopportune play-back systems - are around.
Ask Timothy Boomer.
He took a spill while canoeing on the Rifle River north of Detroit last summer. He surfaced bellowing a blue streak. The flow of foul language prompted a nearby mother to cover her child's ears. A sheriff one-quarter of a mile downstream also heard the spew. He met Mr. Boomer with a $100 fine and the possibility, if contested, of up to 90 days in jail.
The case, going before a judge this week, has become a cause clbre for free-speech advocates. The 1897 Michigan law - prohibiting cursing in front of women and children - is archaic and utterly unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union says.
Usually, I buy that line. I don't want speech cops censoring my expression. But this is an exception.
Profanity is like secondhand smoke. You may have a right to produce it, but please, not in my space. Why should I or my family be exposed to the pollution you exhale?
The courts have upheld local bans on smoking, why not swearing? This is less about articulate free speech, than respect for others. It's about basic courtesy. If you want to verbally pollute your own home, OK.
But in public, take your sewer synonyms out back - with the smokers.
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