OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
A woman in New Jersey has been reprimanded by a judge and ordered to remove anti-Joe Biden signs from her property.
Attorneys have argued that the decision is in violation of her free speech as protected by the First Amendment but the judge disagreed, NJ.com reported.
A municipal judge on Thursday ruled that a Roselle Park homeowner’s owner’s anti- President Biden flags including the F-bomb on her fence were obscene and must be removed because they violated a borough ordinance.
Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge Gary Bundy ordered the Willow Avenue homeowner to remove the signs with profanity within a week or face a $250-a-day fine. Patricia Dilascio is the property owner but her daughter, Andrea Dick, had the signs, three of which include the F-word, on display.
“This is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language,” the judge said. “This ordinance does not restrict political speech. Neither this town or its laws may abridge or eliminate Ms. Dilascio’s freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right. It is clear from state law and statutes that we cannot simply put up the umbrella of the First Amendment and say everything and anything is protected speech.”
The Democrat Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello III, who is campaigning for state Senate, said that the signs, that contain words like “F**k Biden,” are profane and are close to a school, thus wanting them removed.
But Dick said she would not remove the signs as they are political speech protected by the First Amendment.
They were issued a notice of violation by a borough code enforcement officer last month and then a court summons days after the signs were not removed from the property.
“It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, business association, club, group of individuals or any combination of the aforementioned to knowingly photograph, act in, pose for, print, sell, offer for sale, give away, exhibit, publish or offer to publish or otherwise distribute or pander, make, display or exhibit any obscene material, communication or performance or other article or item which is obscene within the Borough,” the code reads.
“The word ‘obscene’ shall mean any material, communication or performance which the average person applying contemporary community standards existing within the municipality, would find, when considered as a whole,” it said.
The attorney for the homeowner, Michael Campagna, argued that the standards for obscenity have changed since the 1920s when a woman showing her legs in public was considered obscene.
“I am a firm believer in the First Amendment,” he said. “I may not believe in what you’re saying, but I absolutely believe that you have the right to say it. That’s what our democracy is about. If you tell people that they cannot say something, that they cannot print something, that they cannot put a sign up, we’re going into censorship.”
“In Nazi Germany, when Hitler didn’t like something, they burned the books and then they burned the people,” he said. “I don’t think we want that to happen in Roselle Park.”
The attorney for the borough, Jarrid Kantor, said that the First Amendment is subject to “reasonable limitations” and that the judge should apply “contemporary community standards” which would find the signs to be obscene.
“Mr. Campagna gets to the heart of the issue,” the attorney said. “He says, what’s obscene in the 1800s? What’s obscene in the 1850s? What’s obscene now? What’s obscene then? That’s why there is no defined term.”
The judge ruled that only the signs with curse words had to be removed but the others could stay.
“Today was a win for the borough and decency,” the mayor said. “While we respect the views of our residents, there’s no place for profanity by a school and school children.”