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Swearing Bylaws Essay

1084 words - 5 pages

On February 15, 2010 a woman in Chapel Hill, NC by the name of Samantha Elabanjo was arrested because she told two Chapel Hill Police Officers, “you need to clean your dirty damn car,” and she then called them “assholes” (State of North Carolina). If Samantha Elabanjo lived in Rockville, Maryland the outcome may have been different. To date, there are no known documented arrest for Rockville’s Profanity Law. Rockville, Maryland’s City Code Chapter 13 Article III Sec. 13-53 states, “(a) a person may not profanely curse and swear or use obscene language upon or near any street, sidewalk or highway within the hearing of persons passing by, upon or along such street, sidewalk or highway; (b) a ...view middle of the document...

Take for example, many people that are religious, feel that by saying the words, “Jesus Christ” as an expression of disgust or anger, you are taking the lord’s name in vain and that is obscene language. If the ordinance cannot be more specific in what constitutes “profanely curse” or “obscene language,” then the law is unconstitutionally vague and needs to be repealed. To refer back to Samantha Elabanjo’s situation, she took her case to court and the court dismissed her case. Her case was dismissed on the grounds that the North Carolina statute, “defines neither “indecent” nor “profane” and “a reasonable person cannot be certain before she acts that her language is not violative of this law, and it is therefore unconstitutionally vague” (State of North Carolina). This court’s decision is proof that the law in Rockville, Maryland should be revoked, since it is too vague and lacks definitions.
Another reason to nullify Rockville, Maryland’s ban on profanity is that it violates the first amendment. The first amendment states, “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (“The Bill”). Even though the first amendment does protect the freedom of speech, “the Supreme Court has also recognized that a government can prohibit some speech that can cause violence or a breach in peace” ("State’s). But Rockville, Maryland’s profanity ordinance does not specify that it prohibits profanity that can cause violence or a breach in peace. Due to it how the ordinance is written, it violates the first amendment. A person is protected by the first amendment to walk down a street and sing a song with profanity.
The third reason Rockville, Maryland’s City Code Chapter 13 Article III Sec. 13-53 should be nullified is that it is already prohibited in other laws. A law is unnecessary if there are other laws that cover what that law is trying to prevent. Depending on the aspect of the...

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