Middleborough, Mass., appears to be like most quiet small American towns with tree-lined streets and children playing in the park, but it has one major problem according to local residents: Swearing.
The cursing has gotten very, very bad. I find it appalling and I won't tolerate it, said Mimi Duphily, a civic leader in the community. No person should be allowed to talk in that manner, she added, the Wall Street Journal reported.
After warning people from shouting the F-word in the streets, the 63-year-old took the matter to the Middleborough Business Coalition, who called a summit with the Middleborough Police Chief, Bruce Gates.
On Monday night Gates asked citizens to vote at the annual Town Hall Meeting, to grant police the power to issue a $20 fine for those who publically articulate verbal profanities at another community members. The residents voted 183-50 to approve the proposal and impose a $20 fine on public profanity, the Associated Press reported.
We used to have a law against swearing but it wasn't enforced because that meant it was criminal, Duphily told the AP. But now, if you pay the ticket, then it's done and over with. That, she says, makes the law more enforceable.
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Duphily explained that the new rule would not infringe people who were swearing during private conversations.
It's mainly for aggressive behavior or verbal assault of someone who's a distance away from you. It's really just about when it rises above what is acceptable behavior, she said.
The swearing restrictions have pulled in much negative reaction from people as well, according to Duphily, but residents from other towns, who suffer from a similar problem, are also curious to find out if the penalty system works.
At this state in American history, there seems to be a lot of polarization and voices that are particularly strident and loud; just visit any news site and look at the comments, Ken Paulson, president of the nonprofit First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University told the Wall Street Journal. He explained that there has been a recent string of instances of public officials trying to require civility.
In New York lawmakers recently introduced legislation banning anonymous online comments, and in Arizona senators are debating legislation that could ban public school instructors from using swear words that are banned from broadcast television, the Wall Street Journal reported.