By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Is cursing in front of a child a form of child abuse? New Jersey still thinks so.
A man who pleaded guilty to a fourth degree felony five years ago is now trying to get the plea withdrawn and the law overturned. The 70-year-old law makes it illegal in New Jersey to use “profane, indecent or obscene language” around a minor in that adult’s care so as to debauch the child’s morals.
Lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union say that language has changed since that law was enacted (one only needs to look at the Real Housewives of New Jersey to know that’s true) and that it’s unconstitutional to make swearing a crime.
At first blush, it does seem antiquated when Jets fans potentially could fear prosecution in the unlikely event that they let a stream of expletives fly while watching a game with their kids. And yet, the person who was prosecuted was originally arrested for child endangerment, unlawful sexual contact, and ultimately pleaded guilty to this crime – so in the context of what actually happened regarding the use of obscenity and other inappropriate behavior, the law seems less ridiculous.
Whether the statute is overturned or not, parents are wise to remember that words hurt and leave emotional scars so whether you’re allowed to use those words toward or in front of a kid and whether you should may be two different questions.