“We have a lot more important things to do, but these are things that are quality of life issues…”
Middleborough, Connecticut Police Chief Bruce Gates, explaining why he a plans to start enforcing a longstanding but rarely-used law that will allow police to hand out $20 fines for public profanity [cursing]. The chief will make his case for a more easily enforceable system of fines for public cursing before a Town Meeting in June. (Some townspeople told a local reporter they think the fine should be $100 per curse.)
NOTE: Old laws punishing profanity and blasphemy are still on the books in many states or municipalities – a surprising number of state laws still prohibit such speech. Even though the laws are rarely enforced, they are still on the books. Some anti-profanity laws were passed to shield women and children from foul-mouthed men. Consider this Michigan law: “Any person who shall use any indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or child shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” Also, Michigan’s blasphemy law says: “Any person who shall willfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”[from ehow.com: In the United States, the legalities of profanity trace their roots to the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees free speech. However, this liberty is not intended to incite citizens to roam the streets shouting obscenities. Its intention was to allow uncensored speaking at “peaceful” gatherings and in the media.
In early America, laws banning profanity were based on religion. Back then, serious infractions involved breaking the biblical commandment to honor God’s name and laws against profanity often banned using God’s name “in vain.”
In 1775, General George Washington banned cursing among his troops and required church attendance. Demands like this prompted Judge Zephaniah Swift, in 1796, to declare the government unable to punish a person on religious violation alone, that person must be disturbing the peace as well.
Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the context in which the allegedly profane language is spoken generally decides whether the language is protected by the First Amendment.]