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Massachusetts Town Considers Fining Residents For Cursing

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These days, it seems swearing in public has become commonplace. To combat the habit, one Massachusetts town is considering the adoption of a local law that could make swearing a civil offense, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to CBS Boston, Middleborough Police Chief Bruce Gates made the case for the initiative.

"We have a lot more important things to do, but these are things that are quality of life issues, community policing issues that a lot of people don’t want to see downtown," Gates told the station.

If the proposed law wins enough votes at the Middleborough town meeting Monday, residents caught cursing in public could face a $20 fine. The proposed law would target those who accost or address another person with profane or obscene language in a street, notes WCVB-TV.

But whether or not the law will hold up constitutionally is questionable, Ken Paulson, president of the nonprofit First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Moreover, Middleborough already passed a similar law back in 1968 making swearing a criminal offense. But police have not enforced the law, viewing it as not being worth their time.

Moves to ban profane language can be traced back to early American history. According to TIME magazine, General George Washington banned profanity in the Continental Armies in July of 1776.

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Mass. town weighs $20 fines for swearing in public