South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford is trying to outlaw lewd language and profanity.

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Story here. It notes:

We spoke to Debra Gammons with the Charleston School of Law about freedom of speech.

She reminds that the First Amendment is not absolute. You cannot say whatever you want whenever you want to.

Courts will usually look at where the words were said and who heard them. Children are usually protected.

Not an entirely accurate overview of contemporary First Amendment jurisprudence, to put it mildly. I’m tempted to make some snarky remark about the quality of the law faculty at our in-state competitor, but I’ve been misquoted so many times, I will assume that is what happened here.

The text of the bill Ford introduced is accessible here. It says in part:

“Section 16-15-370.     (A)     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.

(B)     A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

Maybe I have a Con Law treatise lying around someplace that I can send to Senator Ford. And I’ll try hard not to use the eff word in the gift card I enclose.

–Ann Bartow

ETA: Eugene Volokh has a pretty good take on this bill, I have to admit.

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5 Responses to South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford is trying to outlaw lewd language and profanity.

  1. Eric says:

    I wonder if it would violate the statute if I were to invite Sen. Ford to kiss my ass in Macy’s window?

  2. Ann Bartow says:

    I was thinking about getting one of those Cohen v. California jackets.

  3. bob coley jr says:

    Though some of the usages of free speech seem useless to me, some is indeed warrented. As one that fought (way back, Portnoy’s Complaint days) for The Free Speech Movement, I call *BULLSHIT* on Sen. Ford. Does the proposed statute limit all or just within earshot or eyeshot of someone that has the right not to be forcably exposed to what to them is objectionable? We must always endeavor to be fair. Balance not oppression.

  4. Ann Bartow says:

    I was so tempted to start the title of this post with the words: “Holy Shit!” I need to get in all the cussing I can before this gets enacted into law.

  5. Eric says:

    It occurred to me only belatedly that Sen. Ford shares his name with the knave who gunned down Jesse James. That pretty much says it all.

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