Tennesseans celebrating Independence Day have found another one of their freedoms taken away by the state, the right to free speech. Drivers offended by a bumper sticker can now report it to the police who will ticket the driver if it's deemed offensive.
A law that has been on the books since the 1980s will now be enforced by Tennessee police effective July 1. Violators of the obscene or patently offensive bumper sticker law will now face a fine of $50 if they are reported to have an offensive or obscene bumper sticker on their vehicle.
Besides offensive bumper stickers, the law will apply to window signs or any other markings on the vehicle, as well as movies that can be seen by a passing motorist, according WKRN.
The statue that covers offensive bumper stickers reads:
To avoid distracting other drivers and thereby reduce the likelihood of accidents arising from lack of attention or concentration, the display of obscene and patently offensive movies, bumper stickers, window signs or other markings on or in a motor vehicle that are visible to other drivers is prohibited and display of such materials shall subject the owner of the vehicle on which they are displayed, upon conviction, to a fine.
But some Tennessee drivers are concerned the law infringes on their constitutional right of free speech, and are asking why is this law now going to be strictly enforced by the state.
"They are constantly arguing about what is obscene, what that definition is," said one licensed driver. What is obscene to one person may not be to another. Gary Moore (D), a state representative told WKRN, "When you get into crossing the line so to speak you do not have a right to impose your speech on other people."
A sexist sticker against Hillary Clinton
The police officer who investigates the report, or a judge if you fight the ticket, will make the final determination of whether it is obscene or offensive in any way. This will include everything from political bumper stickers and agendas, literary preferences, art, social and scientific values, to whatever opinion the driver feels like sharing with other motorists.
The Tennessee state code provides a long list detailing how 'obscene or offensive' is defined. The definition includes anything that is harmful to minors, contains nudity, stirs sexual excitement, sexual conduct, or images of excess violence or sadomasochistic abuse. The state code also includes anything that would be patently offensive to the prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole.
Drivers ticketed under the bumper sticker law with have an option of paying the $50 fine or appearing before a judge who will issue the final decision.