This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published February 11, 2015 at American Thinker.
In an attempt to keep the upcoming annual Mardi Gras parade family-friendly, the St. Martinville, LA police have asked participants to refrain from playing rap music with vulgar lyrics.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Louisiana chapter has issued a warning letter to the police that the music policy could lead to “racial profiling” in the black majority city of 7,100 in the middle of Cajun and Creole country and which was incorporated in 1817.
“We have learned from the Teche News (Jan. 28, 2015) that the St. Martinville Police Department has agreed to enforce rules banning ‘floats playing rap music with obscene lyrics,’” wrote ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman, who accused the cops and the parade sponsor — the Newcomers Club —of issuing rules for the Feb. 15 event that are vague and not constitutionally enforceable.
“Things like vulgar lyrics,” Esman explained. “There is no legal standard for what’s vulgar so nobody could possibly understand what that would mean.”
No, nobody who has encountered a car or truck stereo with an “artist” rhapsodizing about such pastimes as shooting police and abusing women, at maximum volume with four-letter words, could possibly discern what is vulgar and what is not. Bring the kids over for a listen!
In an increasingly coarse culture created by the ACLU’s destruction of minimal public decency standards, it would be no wonder that nothing could possibly be considered offensive, even at an event where hundreds of children are present.
“Singling out ‘rap’ music as the only genre of music subject to regulation can lead to racial profiling and implies that other music that might also include ‘obscene’ lyrics would be permitted,” the ACLU letter says. Perhaps they’ve not heard of profane white rappers like Eminem?
But maybe they have a point about rap being singled out. You have to be on your guard for obscene lyrics in those gospel numbers, country songs, folk/rock, jazz, New Age, classical or the Acadiana region’s own Zydeco music.
In a pedantic section of her letter, Ms. Esman instructs the hapless police of St. Martinville that under the Supreme Court’s definition for obscenity in the Miller case, “[b]y legal definition, rap music, as a recognized art form, cannot be ‘obscene’ because it does not ‘lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” So there.
The ACLU is also cool with uh, public bodily gestures: “St. Martinville may … not enact or enforce any restrictions on legally protected music or other forms of expression during the upcoming parade. This applies to other forms of protected expression listed in the rules as well, namely ‘body gestures and vocal outbursts,’ which are legally protected expressive activity, as well as vaguely defined (a ‘body gesture’ could include waving to a friend in the crowd, and a ‘vocal outburst’ could mean calling someone’s name).”
Yes, that’s it. The cops are going to haul someone off a float for waving to a friend or calling out a name.
Police Chief Calder Hebert told WWL.com, a local news outlet, that rap music per se is not the problem, just the vulgar kind.
“We’re just hoping that all parade participants respect our young kids along the route,” Hebert said.
He could have added, “Even if the ACLU does not.”