Defamatory speech not protected
We often refer to our First Amendment to protect our speech and symbolic actions.
Freedom of speech is freedom from prosecution for voicing our opinions and beliefs or for support of our position in civil cases.
However it does not by default limit us to exposure, risk or liability.
The First Amendment does not protect us from defaming words (libel or slander) or allow us to shout “Fire!” in a crowd of people.
It does not allow us to obstruct justice, harass, lie under oath or encourage unlawful conduct. Semi-protected are hate words, character attacks and deceptive or false advertising.
The First Amendment does not protect us from an explicit or implied duty or obligation to those we represent.
Recently two public figures were fired for words that breached organization policies — Rick Sanchez from CNN and Hank Williams Jr. from ESPN.
While Hank’s rowdy friends may still come over for football Monday nights, they are singing a different tune before the game.
Tracy Belcher DaBell
Choose words wisely in front of children
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”
— Jesus of Nazareth
I am tired of the obscene vocabulary my fellow Tucumcarians tolerate in our community.
As I write this letter, two of my neighbors sit on their front porches, expressing themselves in front of their children with a full range of choice metaphors.
Not to single out any particular person, my ears can listen on almost any day and hear a stream of filthy speech from about any direction.
A few years ago, I witnessed a local resident berating two small children at the local grocer with language too obscene to describe. After several minutes, I interjected that there were better ways to speak to children.
What surprised me was not that the person I spoke to was offended (she certainly was), but that she and the others looked at me as though I were out of my mind.
We are raising a generation that has no sense of decent speech. When you speak garbage in front of your children, they will do the same.
Can you be surprised to hear that your child is suspended from school for obscene insults? I suspect most teachers would say the apple does not fall far from the tree.
It is a shame I must walk my children into the house with ears covered so as not to be subjected to the mindless filth that pours out of the mouths of so many.
One might feel this is not a serious issue in a community plagued with drugs, crime, and violence. I say the way we speak reflects the heart of our problems.