First Amendment

Judge orders woman to take down anti-Biden signs using the F-word

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A municipal court judge in New Jersey has ordered a homeowner in Roselle Park, New Jersey, to take down political signs using the F-word after concluding that they violated a borough ordinance that bans the display of obscene material.

In a decision last Thursday, Judge Gary Bundy ordered removal of the signs within a week, report NJ.com and the New York Times. Failure to abide by the order by this Thursday would result in fines of $250 per day.

The homeowner is Patricia Dilascio. She lives on the property with her daughter, Andrea Dick, who put up the signs criticizing President Joe Biden.

Bundy ordered the removal of three out of 10 signs because they use the F-word. Signs reading “F- - - Biden” must come down, but a sign reading “Socialism Sucks Biden Blows” may stay.

Bundy said the case wasn’t about politics.

“Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,” he said. “It is clear from state law and statutes that we cannot simply put up the umbrella of the First Amendment and say everything and anything is protected speech.”

Bundy acted after an enforcement officer cited Dilascio for violating the ordinance and issued a summons when the signs stayed up. The enforcement officer had investigated after the town’s Democratic mayor passed along complaints. The mayor and the enforcement officer said the mayor did not direct any specific action.

Dilascio’s home is close to an elementary school. Dilascio said no children live on the block, and none routinely walks by the home on the way to school.

Dick told the New York Times that she has a First Amendment right to post the signs, and “I’m going to stick with that.” She said she was looking for a new lawyer and planned to see the case through.

Thomas Healy, a law professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law, told the New York Times that he would be stunned if Bundy’s ruling is upheld on appeal. He cited a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case, Cohen v. California, that reversed a disturbing-the-peace conviction of a man who wore a jacket with the words “F- - - the draft” into a courthouse.

The Supreme Court said the words couldn’t be classified as obscenity because they weren’t erotic, and they were protected by the First Amendment.

“One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric,” the Supreme Court said in the 1971 decision.

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