Oh, um … shoot. I can’t say that in S.C.
Democrat Robert Ford, an African-American who readily admits he's targeting African-American men, is behind Bill 56. It's an attempt to wipe out potty mouth as we know it.
The legislation would make it illegal for anyone "in a public forum or place of public accommodation willfully and knowingly to publish orally or in writing, exhibit, or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature."
A violation would be a felony carrying a maximum $5,000 fine and five-year sentence.
Wow. That certainly takes free-speech restrictions a bit beyond a ban on screaming "fire!" in a crowded theater.
Ford is sponsoring another bill, by the way, that would ban people from wearing pants more than three inches below their hips in public. Heaven help the person who happened to cuss because his fanny was cold due to the exposed cleavage. That's two strikes right there.
His heart's in the right place, even if there's a bit of grandstanding involved. Problem is, you can't legislate morality, as the old saying goes. Especially not when the legislation would smack the Constitution upside the head.
Ford told The Associated Press he wants to encourage youth to look to people like President-elect Barack Obama as role models, rather than prisoners. Ford described it as offensive when groups of youth blast profanities and wear sagging pants. He said "when older black people go to the mall, they cry when they see that stuff."
I don't know anything about Ford, and the most attention he'd drawn nationally before now was when he endorsed Hillary Clinton in the state's presidential primary. It would have been well and good if he'd left it at that, but he had to try to explain himself:
"It's a slim possibility for (Barack Obama) to get the nomination, but then everybody else is doomed. Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose — because he's black and he's top of the ticket. We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything."
"I'm a gambling man. I love Obama," Ford said. "But I'm not going to kill myself."
He later apologized.
He's now running for governor on a platform of bringing back video poker, so the pants and profanity bills could well be publicity stunts.
Let's hope so. With legislation so loosely written as to leave profanity to the ear of the behearer, you have to wonder whose standards would apply.
Marine drill sergeants at Parris Island - that gives us a lot of leeway. Or people like a former co-worker, who would peer over his wirerims and admonish violators with a gentle "now, now." I thought his campaign was great until I got "now, now-ed" for exclaiming, "get out of town!" Or Big Guy, who thinks slang for passing gas is the "F-word."
I have a personal stake in this one as well: Loved ones in the Palmetto State who easily could roll up four felonies in a single sentence were this to pass.
So please, Sen. Ford. You've made your point. Now let it go. No reason to belabor it and wind up clogging the courts with challenges.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.