Chaplinsky in Zion

February 4, 2004 | 4 comments
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According to the Deseret News, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is considering a city ordinance that would ban some of the more extreme street preaching around Temple Square.

Under Supreme Court precedent named Chaplinsky, the government can ban so-called “fighting words,” essentially speech that is so offensive that it is likely to produce immediate violence. According to Rocky, calling LDS women “whores” and “harlots” (apparently a fairly common practice among those gentle, Christian spirits trying to save Mormon souls during post-wedding picture taking in front of the temple) probably constitutes “fighting words.” However, he takes the position that public desecration of temple clothing does not.

There are two ways of reading Rocky’s moves here. First, one can see him as simply trying to navigate the shoals of the fighting words doctrine, which is filled with odd and irrational distinctions. Second, he is trying to craft a law that will allow him some political cover without actually having much impact on the street preaching. The second interpretation, of course, requires that Rocky be acting in a somewhat politically irrational manner, trying to cozy up to Mormon voters while at the same time sticking them in the eye with his thumb. On the other hand, this is precisely the kind of irrationality that we have come to expect from Rocky. He is such a cute and loveable guy…

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4 Responses to Chaplinsky in Zion

  1. Adam Greenwood on February 4, 2004 at 4:32 pm

    Or, dear Rocky could be taking away the fighting words that make visceral sense to the American public, but refusing to touch the garment desecration that only makes sense to us (although Rocky understands well enough, I’m sure). If the ordinance goes into effect, it will be much harder for us to make a public case against the agitators. It also makes it more likely that any incidents that do happen will happen in a very newsworthy, public way around Conference time.

  2. Kaimi on February 4, 2004 at 4:37 pm

    Hmm. Can the church trademark its garments? (If so, would street preacher use violate that trademark?). Could the church not sell, but grant licenses to graments, licensing them to members under an end-user license agreement?

  3. lyle on February 4, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    Kaimi: Great idea. Congressional ID cards are the property of the govt and have to be surrendered upon request, right? So…why can’t the Church do the same with Garments…a form of ‘private’ ID?

  4. Geoff Matthews on February 5, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    Lyle,

    Isn’t that the case with temple recommends?
    On the other hand, I’m inclined to let the street preachers damn themselves. . .

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