'No profanity' signs now on way to OC boardwalk
Council approves move adapted from Virginia Beach
The robin's egg-blue 'no profanity please' signs will serve as a reminder to not swear, but will not be connected with a fineable offense. /
Town of Ocean City image
Written by Brian Shane-Staff Writer
Mar. 25, 2014
OCEAN CITY — “No Profanity Please” signs will be posted every block on the Boardwalk this summer, Ocean City officials have decided.
The Ocean City Council approved the signage at its March 24 meeting, the result of weeks of discussion among officials trying to chart the best course for what’s ultimately an unenforcable suggestion.
“It wasn’t going to be anything fineable. It’s just a general reminder,” said Councilwoman Mary Knight, who pitched the idea in January. “The idea is that it shows that Ocean City cares. Families will see it. People will remember, ‘when I see it, maybe I shouldn’t use colorful language’ that some folks use.”
The robin’s egg-blue signs, available in 12-by-18-inch and 24-by-18-inch sizes, also will be available to any business owner who wishes to post them, said City Manager David Recor.
Knight said two local hoteliers brought the idea to her after seeing similar signs in Virginia Beach.
The Virginia Beach signs show grawlix — that’s the word for typographical symbols used to stand in for nonspecific profanity — with a red slash through them. Virginia law makes it a misdemeanor for any person to “profanely curse or swear” in public. The same law makes it illegal to be drunk in public.
The First Amendment right to free speech prevents Ocean City from outlawing profanity in public places, according to Guy Ayres, Ocean City’s attorney.
A person who’s being loud and drawing a crowd may get charged with disorderly conduct, “but you’re not arresting them for a word that’s said,” Ayres said in a January interview.
Councilman Brent Ashley — who last summer drummed up attention for the resort with his efforts to enact a ban on saggy pants — noted how Ocean City’s competitors also are stepping up so-called decency rules. He said Dewey Beach has tightened restrictions on public urination. Similarly, Rehoboth Beach also recently has banned smoking in some public places.
“While this is not an ordinance, but more of a suggestion, it’s the right thing to do and sends the right message,” Ashley said. “We respect each visitor that comes to our town, and we’re just asking them to do the same.
“Now, if we could just add ‘no saggy pants’ to the sign, we might have something,” he said.