ACLU Explains Why Local Government Can’t Stop Vulgar Music In Parades
Last week the St. Martinville City Council was deciding whether to pass a resolution to prevent certain types of music to be played in their annual Mardi Gras Parade. The Council was concerned with playing of inappropriate music during a family event. Questions came up about whether the Council could act and if any action would be enforceable.
Margorie Esman, Executive Director of the Louisiana ACLU spoke with Ken Romero and Dr. John Sutherlin on 'Geaux Acadiana' to discuss the issue. Esman said,
You have to make a legal distinction between the word you use which is 'profane' and the word they use which is 'obscene'. There is no legal standard for what constitutes profanity and even if there were, it's legal and cannot be banned. Obscenity does have a legal definition but by definition popular music does not meet it.
Esman went on to say,
There is no legal way that they could arrest people for playing music that is constitutionally protected under the first amendment.
In addition Esman said,
We cannot in a free society in which the police can arrest people without giving them clear standards.
Dr. Sutherlin asked if the group sponsoring the parade could offer an approved playlist of songs and if participants didn't follow the playlist they would not be admitted. To that Esman responded,
But again people still have the fundamental First Amendment right to play whatever music they want. Now I'm also going to make a distinction between what the parade organizers have the right to do because they are a private group and they can say, 'here's our playlist, here's our code of conduct, here's what we expect. And they can kick you out of the parade. They have the right to do that because they are a private group. The problem is when law enforcement says, 'we're going to arrest people for violating these conditions'.
If you'd like to hear all the comments concerning First Amendment rights click on the blue arrow below to hear the entire interview.