Speaking of swearing, how did I live most of my life in North Carolina and not know until last week it was illegal to cuss in public? I knew we aren’t supposed to pee in public (Mom taught us well), or swig our Grey Goose straight from the bottle while sitting on park benches, but I didn’t know that the occasional “Shit!” expressed within the hearing of two or more people on any public road was illegal for the last 98 years.
Maybe I wouldn’t have shrieked “GODDAMMIT” so loud that time I dropped a 24-oz can of no-name brand green beans on my flip-flopped foot in the parking lot of Wally World. (But I think I was punished appropriately by the inability to wear anything but fleece-lined Crocs for several weeks afterward.) And let’s not talk about what I said to that teenager when she rear-ended my car, after almost shoving me off the road at the previous intersection by suddenly making a right-hand turn out of her left-hand turn only lane. (I made her cry and scared my own kids, which was punishment enough for all of us.)
But last week Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled that North Carolina’s ban on public cussing violates our constitutional right to free speech:
Baddour ruled that the law against “indecent or profane language” within earshot of two or more people on any public road in North Carolina is too broad.
“There is no longer any consensus, if there ever was, on what words in the modern American lexicon are ‘indecent’ or ‘profane,'” Baddour wrote. “A reasonable person cannot be certain before she acts that her language is not violative of this law, and it is therefore unconstitutionally vague.”
The underlying case that resulted in the ban being overturned is interesting in itself. The female defendant told two police officers that they needed to “clean up [their] damn, dirty car” after they asked her to step out of a roadway. Then she added a cherry on top by calling them a vulgar name. Way to thank them for trying to keep you from getting run over, lady. Free speech wins, while good manners lag somewhere far behind.
Source: Winston-Salem Journal