It can pretty much be agreed that good manners, mindful speaking habits, and other niceties of the past are all but absent in much of today’s culture. Is the answer to this fall in the culture to trample the rights of free speech, however? As ABC 11 News has reported, that is one proposed solution in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The place that some people call “Dirty Myrtle” is trying to bring decorum back into society at the cost of the First Amendment, it would seem. WPDE News has confirmed that “those who use profanity could pay a hefty fine or serve jail time” due to the fact that cursing now “falls under” what the city is calling a “disorderly conduct offense.”
The courts have the final say, but having a foul mouth could cost a person “up to $500 and/or 30 days in jail.”
Many people question that this could be a huge problem since cops tend to get called into very heated situations. If someone is attacked and in a fight swearing the when cops arrive, is that a charge?
What if a person swears at a law enforcement officer? The Supreme Court has ruled that this is free speech, as distasteful as that act may be.
Just the same, Bryan Murphy of the Myrtle Beach Police Department warned that “A person would violate Ordinance 14-61 (b) 1 if he/she uses a language likely to provoke a violent reaction from another person. The ordinance lists several examples of the types of words which are unlawful.”
He went on to say, “The penalty for conviction could include a fine and/or jail time. We encourage everyone to avoid violating this ordinance by speaking to others with the same respect and kindness he or she deserves.”
Here we have a rewording of the Golden Rule, and quite honestly, most people should agree that society needs more of that. The problem is that the system can not mandate politeness. A person does not have the right to not be offended.
It could be argued that if this is allowed, soon talking about Jesus Christ within 50 feet of a Muslim could be illegal. In time, perhaps promoting a certain candidate in particular areas will also be against the law. After all, if speech is curbed here, where else can it be curbed at?
It isn’t that society doesn’t need to find a way to be a little bit nicer to one another, but rather that it is quite hard for some of those who care about the Bill of Rights to see just where this idea could lead.