That’s the question before the N.J. Supreme Court right now – not that they don’t have better things to worry about.

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Currently on the books is a 70 year old statute that lawyers for a Morris County man and the American Civil Liberties Union are seeking to overturn allowing for a finding of neglect if an adult habitually uses foul language in front of a minor.

The lawyers told the court Nov. 10 that the statute, N.J.S.A. 9:6-3, is unconstitutional as it runs afoul of the First Amendment.

The plaintiff in the case is 64-year-old John Tate of Morris Township, who served more than 3 years in state prison after pleading guilty to the statue.

Actually the guy’s lucky the statute was on the books since it allowed him to strike a plea deal in the first place – as he had been charged with first-degree sexual assault of his 13-year-old foster son.

So instead of going to jail for a possible 20 year sentence, he goes away for only 3!

However, now that he’s served his time, he wants the justices to overturn the law.

What a country?

But the question at hand is valid: Should it be unlawful to habitually curse in front of a kid?
The ACLU’s attorney, C.J. Griffin, told the court that “curse words cannot be criminalized,” but conceded that there is no constitutional protection for obscene speech.

It’s not unusual for parents to curse at the TV if, lets say, the Giants blow another game.
According to the ACLU lawyer, habitual use of that kind of speech could lead to an 18 month prison sentence.

Perhaps it’s the context that matters. Is a child constantly being berated with the use of foul speech? That’s something the original law never took into account – nor did they take into account what constitutes obscene speech in the first place.

And even though Tate did the slimy thing by using the statute in his favor – he should have just shut up and gone home.

Now, if the prosecutor wishes, his original plea would be vacated and, according to his lawyer, his indictment would be reactivated. The matter then rests in the hands of the prosecutor who could decide to reopen the case.

Oh what a tangled web we weave!

Here’s the deal as I see it – cursing in front of kids is morally wrong.

Unlawful? Not unless it reaches the point of being abusive – and whether or not cursing (obscene language itself) can be defined.

Even though the justices would possibly have to hold their noses at this one, they’d be right in overturning the statute as it is too broad.

But were that to happen, the prosecutor should reopen the case against Tate.

Should it be unlawful to curse in front of kids?