City considers controversial ban of the 'n-word'
(1/22/07 - KTRK/BRAZORIA, TX) (KTRK) -- To most people, it's an offensive word -- the "n-word." Now, city officials in Brazoria are considering banning the use of the word. The proposal calls for a hefty fine for violators -- but is such a ban even constitutional?
Not long ago, the mayor of Brazoria saw a news program that asked the question, should the n-word be banned? Mayor Ken Corley answered, why not?
He said, "It's abusive. It's very distasteful. It hurts people, and that is disorderly conduct."
And so the city of Brazoria, population 2,800, is taking on a word that is more than letters alone.
"That word has been used to, I would say, to tear down the self-esteem of a race," said assistant pastor Ron Simple. "We have to rise above that. We can no longer accept people saying whatever they want to say."
It's said to be a proactive move. The mayor says there have been no complaints to city hall about the slur. But it's used in gangster rap lyrics, and used among young African Americans. The ban would apply to them too.
Bishop Ricky Jones with the Living Word Fellowship explained, "They use this word on a consistent basis. And I try to stand with them and tell them the importance of words. Words are very hurting."
Under the proposed ordinance, it would carry a $500 fine per violation. Banning language, though, can run afoul of the constitution. Whether or not it stands the test of law, the mayor says a message has been sent.
"Maybe they should start thinking before they say something that hurts somebody," suggested Mayor Corley. "To me, that means we've accomplished what we set out to accomplish anyway."
In support of his proposal, city attorney Charlie Stevenson cited a ruling by the US Supreme Court. It says "free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances" and that speech can be regulated when the language is lewd and obscene, profane, libelous and insulting, or fighting words.
The mayor says his proposed ordinance is written in such a way that it would skirt constitutional requirements, and not violate the first amendment, which provides protection of free speech. There will be a public meeting on the proposed ordinance at the Brazoria City Hall on Thursday. A large crowd is expected.
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