By C.J. Ciaramella, Reason
The First Amendment clearly protects the right to political expression, even when it’s vulgar.
A New Jersey homeowner is no longer facing obscenity charges for refusing to take down signs from her property that said “Fuck Biden.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) announced today that a state superior court has dismissed obscenity charges against Patricia Dilascio, a resident of Roselle Park, New Jersey, at the request of the town. As Reason reported last week, a Roselle Park municipal court judge had ordered Dilascio to take down three flags from her property that said “fuck Biden,” finding that they violated the town’s obscenity ordinance. She faced fines of $250 a day for not complying.
The ordinance defines obscenity as anything that “appeals to the prurient interest; depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct as hereinafter specifically defined, or depicts or exhibits offensive nakedness as hereinafter specifically defined; and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
The judge’s order was roundly condemned by free speech advocates, who pointed to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1971 ruling in Cohen v. California. In that case, the Court upheld a man’s right to wear a jacket that said “fuck the draft” into a courthouse, making it clear that the First Amendment protects political expression even when it’s profane or offensive.