Free Speech

Town Drops Obscenity Case Against New Jersey Homeowner for 'Fuck Biden' Signs

The First Amendment clearly protects the right to political expression, even when it's vulgar.

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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.

For example, police in Liberty, New York, arrested Willian Barboza in 2012 and charged him with 2nd-degree aggravated harassment for scrawling "fuck your shitty town bitches" on a speeding ticket. A judge later dismissed the charges, finding that Barboza was exercising his protected First Amendment rights.

Dilascio, represented by the ACLU of New Jersey, appealed the order to take down her anti-Biden flags, and the politically charged small-town kerfuffle in Roselle Park ended up being covered in The New York Times. The reaction was apparently enough that the town filed an application with a state superior court to voluntarily dismiss the charges, which the court granted.

"The continued attention garnered by the inappropriate display and the escalating costs to the taxpayers of continuing to litigate the matter causes far greater harm to the Borough, as a whole, than good," the town said in a statement.

The ACLU of New Jersey applauded the town's decision to drop the fight.

"The First Amendment exists specifically to make sure people can express strong opinions on political issues—or any other matter—without fear of punishment by the government," ACLU-NJ executive director Amol Sinha said in a press release. "Today's decision confirms that our position was correct: Roselle Park had no grounds to issue fines for a political sign and the town's use of its obscenity ordinance infringed upon fundamental rights protected by the First Amendment. It was an uncomplicated case."

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  1. Fuck Roselle Park

    1. They ran like pussies as soon as it was obvious someone was going to fight and they would lose the case.

      Fuck ’em indeed.

      1. They should have never tried to restrict free speech but made it worse by backing out imo. Would rather have a recent 1A decision on the books as a reminder to other municipalities.

        1. Heads on pikes are an even more visceral reminder.

          Feet first into the woodchipper up to the neck then slap it on a pole and voila! Don’t tread on me, indeed!

        2. hope fully mine will be that new case law..in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

      2. Fuck’em, but that *is* better than many prosecutor offices in the country that have instead doubled down on equally stupid prosecutions.

  2. “The First Amendment clearly protects the right to political expression, even when it’s vulgar.”

    However, according to Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky, maybe it shouldn’t.

    #BringBackBerlatsky

    1. You’re out of your wheelhouse. Stick to shilling for billionaires.

  3. Fuck Biden and New Jersey

  4. One little victory.

  5. what to do with the Fuck New Jersey signs?

    1. Hey we need somewhere to put our trash

      1. You’re going to put your trash in a sign? be less retarded.

      2. Or he could less assholish (flagged)

    2. amen,in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  6. This restaurant owner was fined for flying the American flag improperly–although he claims it was for flying the flag itself.

    The Village upholds its high standards and requires all US flags to be flown from permanent flag poles or staffs. Manager Trobiani received a copy of the pertinent Village code, and chose to use the American flag disrespectfully, as a weapon to fight the Village on his issue with the sign ordinance,” village officials said.

    “Manager Trobiani has misled both the Press and the public into thinking that the Village of Prairie Grove cited him simply for flying a US flag, when in fact Manager Trobiani’s actions were very clearly intended to taunt the Village and stoke a fire under the guise of civil liberties,” the statement added.

    https://www.lakemchenryscanner.com/2021/07/24/mchenry-county-man-says-restaurant-he-manages-in-prairie-grove-was-cited-for-flying-american-flag/

    Theu’d have been better off if they’d said less. The idea that it’s disrespectful to use the American flag as a form of protest against the government is absurd and has been decided in the courts long ago. If you can burn a flag as a means of protest, you can sure as hell fly one proudly, too.

    1. “The first citation stated that Trobiani’s restaurant was improperly displaying the flags in violation of the village’s ordinance and that the flags should be displayed only on permanent flagpoles or staffs.”

      Unconstitutional. People are allowed to be disrespectful to the flag.

      “The second citation stated that the flagpoles should be set back a minimum of 15 feet from the property line.”

      This one’s fine though.

      Throw out the first ticket, uphold the second.

      1. u r corect,u cant say what the content is,,in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  7. Country Joe MacDonald had a State of California license plate that read: GIMEANF
    Woodstock Nation and the Buffalo Party were once the only alternatives to the commie Youth International yippies versus Nixon-Wallace fascist Kleptocracy that clashed in Chicago in 1968. We are sooo lucky to have libertarian parties in counties scattered all over These Sovereign States. If the LP weren’t important, the Kleptocracy wouldn’t have it’s hateful thugs polluting the Reason commentariat and tearing down our writers.

  8. Half-educated, bigoted, anti-social, unaccomplished, Republican culture war casualties living in a parent’s crappy little house at 50-something have rights, too.

    1. They have rights, just like de-educated, mollycoddled, evolutionarily defective, equalized Democratic misfits with discolored, individuality-signalling hair, living on daddies credit card forever while being overtly proud to be malnourished.

      (Kirkspeech feels so fucking AMAZING, please everybody give it a shot. Whoa. The dopamine, like, what the fuck!)

      1. how wood u say fuck in kirk language..in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

    2. theres a lot of karens in punta gorda fl…in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  9. The First Amendment clearly protects the right to political expression, even when it’s vulgar.
    Unless they hurt a thin skinned, cry baby politician’s feelings? (sarc)

    1. u r corect,punta gorda is full of fascist karens..in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  10. …but if she had a “Fuck Hunter Biden” flag, it would have been OK.

    1. Would it mean she had actually fucked Hunter Biden or that she would like to fuck Hunter Biden?

      1. in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

    2. yes..in punta gorda any fuck that is writen means sex..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  11. Down here in SW Florida, I am seeing some of those same kinds of signs on homeowner’s properties, as well as on vehicles. Thus far, local officials have made the very wise decision to leave them alone.

    1. not true,punta gorda florida just fucked me..i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  12. The flag appears to say “Fuck Den.” Maybe the authorities thought it was an advertisement for a whorehouse.

    Even so, though, the Roselle Park citizen had the right to say either one and the right to run the houshold accordingly.

    1. free speech is dead in punta gorda,,,i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  13. 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.”

    I’m surprised that the charges were not dismissed because the sense that “fuck ” has in “Fuck Biden” is not “have sexual intercourse with,” but “Do what you must to outrage Biden’s claims to authority and legitimacy and signal your disgusted refusal to lend any credit to anybody’s arguments on his behalf.” This is nt an appeal to prurient interest, but an expression of intransigent moral hauteur.

    1. i almost got fined 11grand 4 this ..https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

  14. https://tinyurl.com/5y8za49u RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE,Florida Town Bans ‘Indecent’ Political Speech on Signs & Clothing, Fines Protesters $3000 for Displaying Flags Proclaiming ‘F–k Biden’

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