Let’s applaud free speech, even if it’s offensive

CNJ staff

Yes, two window stickers depicting naked devils seen recently on Dean Young’s Ford Focus are offensive to many people.

What should be more offensive, though, is that local law officers are attempting to silence Young’s social commentary by threatening to toss him in jail.

The cartoon stickers on Young’s car show two bare-breasted female devils in sexually compromising positions. Young says they are intended to offend the local “church-going” crowd he believes is responsible for a city ordinance banning alcohol sales on Sundays.

Clovis Police Detective Kirk Roberts has accused Young of distributing sexually oriented materials to minors. He has the backing of a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office who says Roberts’ young son saw the devil stickers on Young’s car in a Clovis restaurant’s parking lot. The charge is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum punishment of 364 days in jail and $1,000 fine.

Let us begin by expressing displeasure with Young’s strategy. He says he slapped the stickers up for all to see because “I’m offended by church people saying I can’t drink on Sundays, so I put the devil chicks on my car because I figured it would offend them right back.”

What nonsense.

It’s a good thing he told us his point; until then, we didn’t get it. And what’s the point if nobody gets it?

Young seems oblivious to the fact that free speech and civil liberties face serious challenges across our nation these days as we struggle to defend ourselves against terrorism. Lovers of liberty already have their hands full trying to reason with an oppressive government that claims it’s trying to protect America’s best interests as it invades our privacy through widespread initiatives such as the Patriot Act and bra-checks at airports. Dean Young may have the God-given right to shock caring parents and gray-haired conservatives with repulsive cartoon characters, but we’d prefer he helped defend the First Amendment against a powerful enemy rather than lean on it for support of his oddball agenda.

What was his mission again? Offend as many Clovis-area church-goers as possible? Yep, that’s going to lead to selling alcohol here on Sundays. Great plan, Dean.

That said, bad taste is not usually a crime. Or it hasn’t been. Area law enforcement officers and prosecutors have higher priorities than cruising around town in search of potentially offensive comments on cars.

Don’t we have an unsolved homicide from last year? Hasn’t Clovis’ Calvary Tabernacle church been burglarized four times in the past six weeks? Wasn’t it just 18 months ago that Clovis police told us our city was “one of the most dangerous places in the state to live” in hopes we would give them all a raise to help recruit more officers?

We gave them the raise in August. Have things improved so much since then that police have enough time on their hands to focus on those who push the envelope on free speech? If so, we’ve seen a bunch of raunchy T-shirt wearers who maybe need to explain themselves to their neighbors’ sensitive eyes. And what about those lovers of modern-music lyrics, some of which can make naked devils blush?

Should we book ’em all, Dan-o?

There is, of course, a downside to locking up everyone who offends anyone by expressing their views. Most of us could be in jail by this time tomorrow. Wouldn’t that help our jail overcrowding problems?

This newspaper on Tuesday published the Web site address of the offensive image police found on Dean Young’s car. Should the newspaper’s editor be cited for distributing sexually oriented materials to minors too?

What about the folks in California who operate that devilish Web site and sell those Satanic images? Shall we extradite them for a hearing?

And what about Detective Roberts? He made the following comment to a CNJ reporter in explaining his reasoning for citing Young: “He apparently believes we’re violating his First Amendment rights. … That right ends at my nose.”

Those words ought to offend most of us. Nobody’s right to free speech ends because a police officer is offended.
What nonsense.