Cumberland Times-News

January 24, 2013

It may not be for the squeamish, but it’s still protected speech

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— Regarding the article of Jan. 19 on page 3A entitled, “Bill: Resident asks for sanction of expletive”

I received an attorney general’s opinion letter written by Kathryn M. Rowe, assistant attorney general telling me that she, “cannot recognize a right ... to use the (F) word ... in any public meeting in which he happens to find himself.”

I forwarded this opinion letter to Prof. Christopher M. Fairman of Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law and author of the book subtitled, “Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties,” available at your local library.

In his e-mail response Prof. Fairman told me, “The silly opinion letter penned by the assistant AG is wrong on her application of the law. It is evident from the commissioner’s request for you to actually change the words that you were using that he was trying to suppress pure political speech, not implement a content-neutral time, place, manner restriction.”

We, as citizens protected by the First and 14th Amendments, should never allow a politician like Commissioner Mike McKay or school board President Sara Beth James to suppress pure political speech of any citizen.

That is why I am asking for an attorney general’s opinion on this matter through Sen. George Edwards and the Western Maryland Delegation.

The reader may not like this expletive or its use in a public meeting but it is protected speech. If you do not believe me, read Rosenfeld V. New Jersey, decided May 7, 1973.

Quoting from Rosenfeld V. New Jersey, “Justice Harlan’s opinion for the Court in Cohen specifically pointed out that ‘the State has no right to cleans public debate to the point where it is grammatically palatable to the most squeamish among us.’”

Kevin Shaffer

LaVale