State to Town: Sorry, People Are Allowed to Swear

Massachusetts AG asks Middleborough to scrap rule

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Oct 9, 2012 4:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is recommending that the town of Middleborough change or repeal a bylaw that prohibits public profanity. The town approved a proposal this summer that would allow police to enforce the 1968 ban by imposing a $20 fine on people who engage in loud swearing in public.

The proposal came in response to concerns by merchants about profanity-laden language used by teenagers and other young people in the downtown area and public parks. But Coakley said today the original bylaw appears to violate First Amendment guarantees of free speech, and she called on Middleborough to take it off the books or amend it.

In this 2007 file photo, pedestrians stroll through downtown Middleborough, Mass.
In this 2007 file photo, pedestrians stroll through downtown Middleborough, Mass.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
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