First Amendment

New Jersey supremes consider law banning habitual profanity in front of minors

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The New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday considered whether a state law banning cursing in front of minors violates the First Amendment.

The 70-year-old statute says any person caring for a minor can be found guilty of child neglect for habitual “profane, indecent or obscene language” in front of the child, the New Jersey Law Journal and report. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and a man who pleaded guilty under the law asked the court to strike it down.

John Tate, 64, of Morris Township served more than three years in prison before pleading guilty to violating the law in a plea bargain. He was originally charged with the sexual assault of a minor foster son.

Tate’s lawyer, Michael Pastacaldi, argued that the law “criminalizes free speech.” He said the public view of profanity has changed since the law was passed. “It really does infringe upon an individual’s right to parent and what to say in front of a child,” he argued.

Tate now wants to withdraw his plea. If he is successful, the indictment would be resurrected, and prosecutors would have to decide whether to proceed, Pastacaldi told

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