Felony Vulgarity For Circulating The Bible

In South Carolina, a bill has just been proposed which would make it a felony — yes, a felony — to use vulgar language in a public forum, a public accomodation (as defined by the civil rights laws) or to disseminate such material to minors. Vulgar language is defined as “words, language, or actions of profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.”

I am endlessly amused by Eugene Volokh’s noting that this bill would criminalize giving a copy of the King James Bible to a teenager. The KJV uses, among other things, the word “piss” to refer to an act of coprophagia,* something which if it weren’t in the Bible, would clearly fall within any definition of “obscenity” that has ever been used. Also that an adult having sex with a sixteen-year-old would be committing no crime in South Carolina — but if they talk dirty during their tryst, the adult becomes a felon for talking about what they are actually doing.

The author of this obviously unconstitutional piece of legislation is South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford, a Democrat, representing a portion of the city of Charleston. His home telephone number is listed on the website, which I think might turn out to be a bad idea. Note, though, that while this might be bad law, it’s probably good politics — I’m reasonably sure that Ford wouldn’t have introduced so inane a bill if he didn’t think doing so would please his constituents.

* 2 Kings 18:27 in the KJV reads: “But Rab-shakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?” Coprophagia references — as much proof, as if any were needed, that the Bible just plain ain’t suitable for children.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.