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A club for non-cursers

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–He has received more than 60,000 pieces of hate mail in the past seven weeks and profanity-laced e-mails daily fill his inbox. Teaming with the torrent of written abuse has been scores of threatening voice messages.

Given the quantity of the ridicule being heaped on this person, you might conclude that he is a serial killer or pedophile. So, just who is this vilified individual and what has he done to earn such scorn?

The person being subjected to the aforementioned abuse is McKay Hatch, a 15-year-old high school freshman in Pasadena, Calif. Hatch is being attacked because he had the audacity to begin a club dedicated to curtailing profanity at his school.

On the “No Cussing Club” website (www.nocussing.com), Hatch shares how the club got its start.

“I started the “No Cussing Club” at my junior high school … in 2007,” he writes. “A lot of kids at my school, and some of my friends, would cuss and use dirty language all the time. They did it so much, they didn’t even realize they were doing it.”

When Hatch told his friends that the cussing bothered him, he says “they were shocked.” As a result the group accepted a “No Cussing Challenge” whereby they made a “commitment to themselves to use better language.”

Hatch received approval for his club at his high school. On “club rush day,” 100 people joined. Soon after, the website went up and now the “No Cussing Club” boasts more than 20,000 members from all over the globe.

Hatch’s club is voluntary and has as its motto, “Leave people better than you found them.”

The “No Cussing Club” has also affected adults. At least two California municipalities have adopted a “no cussing week” designed to encourage the use of clean language.

I visited the “No Cussing Club” website and joined Hatch’s effort to encourage clean language. I agree with him that public discourse is too prolific with profanity.

Movies and television programs intended for general audiences once contained no cursing or sexual innuendo. Now you are hard-pressed to find mass media without crude content. As a result, cussing has trickled down and stained everyday discourse.

Language that was once uttered only by tough-talking men is now routinely heard at school, the mall, the public park and from the mouths of children.

While cussing has been around as long as there has been communication, until recently its frequent and public use has been frowned upon. Once, those who flaunted vulgar words and phrases were considered to be rude, crude or socially inept — and sometimes all three.

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low,” said George Washington, “that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” I am quite certain our first president would be disappointed at the proliferation of profanity that has occurred in the nation he helped found.

Some, it seems, have confused Hatch’s effort as an attack on their First Amendment right to use potty words in public. These folks’ ignorance of the U.S Constitution is surpassed only by their puny and uncreative vocabularies.

In order for freedom of speech to be in play, the government must be the agent attempting to censor communication — like members of Congress wanting to resurrect the so-called Fairness Doctrine in an effort to muzzle conservative talk radio. A teenager starting a club to discourage cussing is not a freedom of speech issue. After all, membership in his club is voluntary.

So, why has Hatch been the target of so much vitriol? Why are so many proponents of profanity threatened by a voluntary club designed to promote the use of clean language? It seems like a bit of overreaction to me.

If you take a look at Hatch’s detractors through the lens of Scripture, you gain some perspective. “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart,” the Bible says (Matthew 12:34). Scripture also states, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, slanders” (Matthew 15:19).

According to the Bible, speech — as well as action — is a matter of the heart. An undisciplined heart produces an unrestrained vocabulary as well as erratic behavior. Those attacking Hatch for his “No Cussing Club” overreact because their hearts — like their vocabulary — are out of control.

On rare occasion, and with much chagrin, even the most disciplined person might have an explicative escape his or her lips. However, the “No Cussing Club” is not about the infrequent slip of the tongue. McKay Hatch is calling attention to the unfettered and unrestrained use of profanity that degrades and sullies our culture. For that he deserves accolades, not attacks.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs