The First Amendment gives US citizens certain basic freedoms. One of those freedoms is freedom of speech. Hercules Fence Company, in Ocala, Florida, has taken full advantage of their First Amendment right.
The sign in front of the business has often had hilarious jokes on it. It’s even become something of a landmark in the local area, with residents slowing down or deliberately taking that route just to read the newest sentiments on the sign. Often, the two sides of the sign have different statements, making it even more fun for passersby.
That same sign has also been a bone of contention between Hercules Fence and local citizens. The company has, more than once, posted something that someone has found offensive. In 2007, for example, a fairly tasteless joke about disabled people appeared on the sign (www.ocala.com).
This time the sign seems to ask women to bare their breasts. The sign reads: Breast Inspection 20 feet ahead “Please have ’em out” Gotta love them rednecks. (www.ocala.com)
Many people have taken offense to this. The question is: why? Is it really that offensive?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. People are getting involved in numerous ways to draw attention to breast cancer. There is a website called Save the ta-tas. This site sells products, such as t-shirts, tank tops, buttons and bracelets, many of which contain the word ta-tas.
How is it that a sign, using the proper term for breasts, is more offensive than someone walking around in a t-shirt that says “Totally Tubular Ta-Tas?” And even if it is more offensive, since when is anyone forced to look at it?
Paul Buchkovick, president of Hercules Fence Company, has given no comment, so it’s unknown at this time if the company intended this statement to draw attention to breast cancer or if it was just a coincidence. But regardless of the intention, the fact remains that this has brought attention to breast cancer. Considering that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (www.cdc.gov), does it really matter how we draw attention to it, as long as we draw attention to it ?
We all have a First Amendment right to free speech. Hercules Fence Company has the right to post any message they wish on their sign, offensive or not. Citizens have the right to be offended by that sign, and to say so. At the same time, each side has to respect the other side. Those who take offense to the sign are free to express their opinion of the sign, but requesting that it be removed is just wrong. It’s an attempt at censorship. The First Amendment gives us all the right to free speech; the 14th Amendment says, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Words which, ordinarily and in many places, would be within the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment may become subject to prohibition when of such a nature and used in such circumstances a to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils which Congress has a right to prevent. The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done.”
There is no way in which this sign can be construed as a clear and present danger. Therefore there is no reason to censor Hercules Fence Company.