Swear JarMiddleborough, a town just outside Boston, Massachusetts has taken the concept of paying for swearing to a whole new level. The town has recently been frustrated by the presence of teens and other "rowdy" individuals shouting obscenities in the streets, sometimes making potential customers uncomfortable.  In order to solve this problem of people cursing at the top of their lungs, the town has decided to make public profanity a payable offense.

Middleborough has actually had a bylaw against public profanity since 1968. However, because of the de minimis nature of the "crime," the expense of bringing the accused through the entire criminal process has been viewed as too egregious to actually charge people. Therefore, the effect of the new law is to actually decriminalize swearing, and make it into an infraction, with an accompanying $20 fine.  What isn't clear, is whether the $20 fine covers the entire episode of profanity, or whether each individual word is punishable by a separate fine. I'm assuming the former is the case.

The ACLU has stated its position that the law penalizes constitutionally protected speech, namely that the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the government cannot prohibit public speech solely because it contains profanity.

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