Bryan Cox, former news director at WACH-Fox, brings this to my attention. That’s Bryan in the picture, holding the “COCKS” photograph.
Here’s Bryan’s commentary on the matter:
These pics were taken Sunday at Sims Park in Shandon. The Columbia police department announced anti-profanity signs were going up via a Facebook post on Wednesday.
This announcement sparked some local media coverage; none of which I saw took a hard look at whether this is legal. The city ordinances cited on the sign are 14-91 (disorderly conduct) and 15-1 (rules of a park).
The SC Supreme Court has ruled at least twice that profanity alone is not grounds for arrest. See: State v Pittman (2000) and State v Perkins (1991). The court has since ruled for profanity to be illegal it must have been accompanied with “fighting words” that could reasonably incite violence. For example, (my understanding of the case law, not an actual example given by the court) cursing at a man’s wife in public likely would not be protected speech as it could reasonably incite a fight with the man. However; simply cursing in front of the man and his wife in public is protected speech.
Aside from contradicting South Carolina law, the city claim runs contrary to other states’ recent action on the issue.
North Carolina Superior Court struck down that state’s anti-profanity law in January on free speech grounds. Here’s a link: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/state-s-anti-profanity-law-unconstitutional-rules-superior-court-judge
Chicago suburb Park Ridge repealed its anti-profanity law in October. In this article the city police chief is quoted as saying the law likely was unconstitutional: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/05/park-ridge-repeals-anti-s_n_995899.html
Obviously I’m not an attorney. However; it seems clear the city knows, or should know, this isn’t enforceable and is spending taxpayer money on signs threatening to arrest citizens for actions that are legal.
It’s also worth noting I posted my photo as a comment on the city’s Facebook page Sunday afternoon, and it was quickly deleted by the department. Apparently, in addition to arresting citizens for crimes that don’t exist the department wants to censor those who dispel this misinformation.
Thanks for taking interest in this. Bryan
Well, of course I’m going to take an interest. You hold up a picture of a pretty young woman holding a sign saying, “COCKS,” it gets my attention.
But I think Bryan’s missing something here: I think that in the Midlands, anything having to do with the Gamecocks or anything that takes place at the Grid Temple takes on religious overtones. Just as we are enjoined against coveting our “neighbor’s ass” in Exodus 20:17, there are words that are OK in a certain context (as long as they refer, in this case, to a donkey). I think in the Grid Temple Bible, there’s probably something about, “Thou shalt have no gods before thy Gamecocks,” or some such.
Anyway, to be serious, I have to say that while Bryan may be on firm legal ground here, my sympathy lies with anyone trying to make our public spaces less coarse. I don’t think we, or our children, or our wives, or our innocent asses, for that matter, should have to be subjected to the kind of filthy that is routine poured forth in loud voices in our parks and elsewhere.
So I’d give our local cops an A for effort, even if they do get slapped down. And don’t quote the First Amendment at me. No rational person believes that the Founders meant that Congress shall make no law abridging F-bombs in public.