Free speech rights should extend to public forums

I went to William and Mary Law School. I attended a panel discussion on the First Amendment, Nov. 5, 2019. Attending with me, a 62-year-old male, were approximately 80 law students equally divided between male and female. All between the ages 22 to 27 by my best estimate. The three speakers were Professor Tim Zick of William and Mary, Professor Nadine Strossen (past president of the ACLU) and prominent First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere.

During the discussion, Mr. Corn-Revere said that President Trump (expletive) Amazon in the $10 billion contract bidding process with the Defense Department because Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington-Post, is consistently critical of his presidency.

When he said this, not one student objected to his use of the word (expletive), or raced out of the room in tears or with their hair on fire, especially the female students. That surprised me because former Allegany County Commissioner and current state Delegate Mike McKay believes as an elected official that woman should not be exposed to that kind of language because, well, because they are females. Also, former County Commissioner Bill Valentine and current Commissioner Crede Brodie are just as lamebrained. I do not believe that state Sen. George Edwards is lamebrained. He just suppresses free speech of his constituents because of the “silly” opinion letter of the attorney general and he follows that opinion blindly without thinking on his own.

It made me extremely happy, almost giddy as a school girl if you will, when Mr. Corn-Revere said (expletive), that all of the law students understood it was protected speech. Maybe there is hope for free speech in the future with these upcoming lawyers.

Now shifting gears, I recently reread Professor Christopher Fairman’s book (expletive) — Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties and on page 103, I found that I had highlighted the first paragraph, used a large asterisk in the margin and dog-eared the top of the page. Clearly, this was important to me when I had first read this book.

Professor Fairman wrote, “In Maryland, the state high court held that “(expletive) you” was not obscene language since it was not intended to excite sexual desire in the hearer (a police officer) and did not “profanely curse or swear” since words uttered did not import imprecation of divine vengeance or imply divine condemnation or irreverence toward God or holy things.”

So does the attorney general still believe that I cannot say the word (expletive) in a public meeting in Maryland and yet I can say “(expletive) you“ to a Maryland state trooper? That logic is dizzying and I probably will get pistol whipped if my past experience with Maryland’s finest is any indication of future behavior.

I will bet that the attorney general will not suppress the constituents’ free speech rights of the new speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates even though Katherine Rowe’s opinion letter says that he should.

Therefore, over a year ago I asked Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones to write a letter to the attorney general and get this “silly” opinion letter revoked, as I believe it to be unconstitutional. As a 62-year-old white man in Allegany County, I would like to have the same free speech rights in a public meeting as any 62-year-old man in the speaker’s district. I do not believe that we should suppress anyone’s free speech rights in the public forum. I still haven’t heard back.

If we cannot tell our government to (expletive) off, what good is the First Amendment?

Kevin M. Shaffer


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