It seems that a bit of an uproar has occurred recently in upstate Michigan. Timothy Boomer’s arrest for public obscenity has been reported on all new media outlets including radio, newspapers, and the internet. According to Michigan state law, “…a person can be arrested and fined for using public profanity in Michigan” (Downey 1999). Citizens in Michigan are arguing the validity of this seemingly antiquated state law. Some citizens view Boomer’s arrest as ludicrous and see it as a gross miscarriage of justice. They look at this law as being unreasonable based upon the age of the law. Simply put, the state of Michigan was wrong in its arrest of Timothy Boomer for two reasons: the Michigan law is nebulous in its definition of public obscenity, and this law violates Boomer’s right to free speech as outlined in the United States First Amendment.
Timothy Boomer chose to channel his anger in a ubiquitous manner: he cursed. One always finds in any society that some people using cursing as a means to deal with anger while others shy away from the practice. The question is not whether he was morally right or wrong in cursing in public, but whether the state of Michigan has the right to arrest him for exercising what is basically his right to free speech. Boomer’s intent was not to harm other people, animals, or nature, but to exorcise his anger by screaming obscenities. Unfortunately, Boomer chose the wrong locale in which to scream profanities, and he was arrested and charged with public obscenities.
The times we live in are ones of constant change. From current events, culture and language to technology, our society has evolved from that of over one hundred years ago. It is good to keep up with what is going on in our society via current events, but, unfortunately, Michigan law did not keep step with popular culture. The law which states that no person can utter obscenities in public was made in 1897. It was not improved upon or changed in any manner until it was contested by the Boomer arrest. Right or wrong, public obscenity has become commonplace in our society, and the law should reflect that. The Michigan law is flawed in myriads ways. For example, it does not specify what words are considered obscene. Many citizens do not even know what words they may or may not use in public to keep in compliance with this law. Timothy Boomer fell victim to this antiquated.
As a United States citizen, Timothy Boomer is exercising his rights, his privileges, and his duties by speaking in a manner that he so wishes. According to the First Amendment, he has a right to freedom of speech, a right to his own opinion, a right to express himself vocally, and a right to be free from censorship. The State of Michigan did not concur with this assumption and arrested him for public profanity. In effect, his First Amendment rights were violated upon his arrest.
Timothy Boomer is just the latest in a long list of people who violated an ancient state law. This proves that laws, for Michigan as well as other states, need to be updated and changed to meet the current culture’s value system. Even though the law could be changed, we still need to remember to use common sense and consideration when in public. We need to refrain from abusing our rights.