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Council seeking to stop use of profanity during meetings

Updated: Thursday, June 12 2014, 03:05 PM CDT

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Louisville's Metro Council is taking steps to clean up the language at its meetings.

Some council members believe it's time to muzzle some speakers.

Recent comments from frequent council gadfly and former candidate for mayor, Connie Marshall, prompted the council's concern. Marshall dropped a racial slur and other profanities during the public comment portion of a council meeting.

Though it's not a widespread problem, some council members want to deal with it now.

"When we allow one person to do it, then other people think that they can do it, so it's time for us to address it," said Dist. 1 council member Attica Scott.

Metro Council rules already prohibit "Loud, noisy, profane, disruptive or boisterous behavior." But now council members have asked the county attorney's office to look into making that rule more specific.

"This is a televised hearing that people can watch in which we're allowing hate speech to be used," said Scott.

The rule change could allow the council to ban speakers who use offensive language.

But what about the right to free speech?

"Generally, we think that more speech is better than less speech," said Amber Duke of the ACLU of KY.

Duke acknowledges some restrictions on speech are common and legal. But she says the council and the county attorney need to tread carefully.

"What if something that's not offensive to one group is offensive to another group? When you start talking about limiting free speech for one person, that's why the ACLU is always cautious because it really opens the door for all of our speech to be limited," she said.

Scott says there's no timetable for the county attorney's investigation.

Connie Marshall told WDRB News that she would be offended if asked to sit down or leave because of any offensive language in her comments to the council.

"I don't use profane language," Marshall said, adding that she read from what she described as police department emails in the May 22 council meeting.

Council seeking to stop use of profanity during meetings


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