Rude Comments and Free Speech

How great would it be to outlaw rude comments? Too bad about that First Amendment thing. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

The town of Southborough, Massachusetts had a policy that read: “All remarks and dialogue in public meetings must be respectful and courteous, free of rude, personal or slanderous remarks.” That is so lovely.  Illegal, but lovely.  It was challenged by a woman who said in a public meeting that the town was “spending like drunken sailors”. When she was told to stop or the public comment session would be stopped, she replied: “You’re a Hitler. I can say what I want.” Hm. That took a turn for the nasty.

She was escorted out, and filed suit.  The Court agreed with her, saying that while the government has a right to set restrictions about when, where, and how long people can talk, the restrictions can’t be based on what people say, which they were here: praise was allowed but not harsh criticism, so the rule was tossed even though it will make the meetings less pleasant.

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