Cursing Ban? $). 3/8 to That
RARITAN, N.J. (AP) _ A car with Florida plates pulled slowly onto Raritan’s main thoroughfare Wednesday. An elderly couple looked around curiously.
″Is this the town that just banned cursing?″ Harry Stiles, 75, asked a passerby. When the Tampa resident was told yes, Stiles replied, ″Oh good. Because we want to move here.″
Stiles isn’t the only person who likes the cursing ban the borough council passed unanimously Tuesday night. A Montville man is offering $10,000 to any state or federal legislator who can make cursing in public a crime.
″I’m not saying I want a cop on every street corner with a bar of soap in his pocket to wash your mouth out with soap,″ Brad Honigsberg said of his offer. ″But I do think cursing in public should be banned. People can’t seem to do it voluntarily, so it’s up to lawmakers.″
Other residents and visitors interviewed Wednesday in this 2-square-mile borough of 5,800 residents, many senior citizens, oppose the ban, saying it infringes on free speech.
Bree Dougherty, 21, said she couldn’t believe the council passed it.
″What are they thinking?″ said Dougherty, who recently moved here from Philadelphia. ″The days of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘American Bandstand’ are long gone. The council should be more worried about how to protect citizens from crime and how to keep property taxes low.″
A similar law in Quincy, Mass., hasn’t ever led to a prosecution, Mayor James A. Sheets said. Just the threat has helped police keep language in check since the city revamped its loitering ordinance in 1991 to bar public cursing.
The Raritan cursing ban makes it illegal for people to behave in a disorderly manner by using ″noisy, rude or indecent behavior, by using profane, vulgar or indecent language, by making insulting remarks or comments to others″ in public.
Violators will be issued a summons, and could get as much as a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s New Jersey chapter has deemed the ban unconstitutional. Ed Martone, the chapter’s executive director, said the organization would not take action unless police enforce the ban.
And Raritan Police Chief Joseph Sferra has said that doing so would only invite a lawsuit.
Martone has said the ACLU will probalby step in and help if someone wants to challenge the ban.
That didn’t scare Mayor Anthony DeCicco from going ahead with Tuesday night’s vote, and it isn’t scaring the ban’s supporters.
Honigsberg, president of Air Contact Transport Inc., an overnight delivery company, made the same $10,000 offer in 1988 - after being angered in a Point Pleasant Beach restaurant when a group of men were cursing loudly, bothering not only him, but an elderly couple nearby.
″When the elderly man asked them to stop cursing, one of the men said, ‘Sit down, you bleeping old man,’ ″ Honigsberg recalled. ″So then I stood up and told them to stop.″
The men took one look at Honigsberg, a 45-year-old with the build of a football player, and decided to knock it off, Honigsberg laughed.
″Foul language is like a symptom,″ he said. ″It’s a defiance of accepted social mores and decorum and authority.″
Honigsberg even has a loosely organized group called The Great American Smut-Out. The group’s big event comes in May, when it encourages Americans to stop swearing for a week.