Is Saying ''Go to Hell'' Considered An Obscene Language ?
In Commonwealth v. Bryner, 438 Pa. Super. 473, 652 A.2d 909 (Pa. Super. 1995), a panel of this Court attempted to refine the decision in Commonwealth v. Pringle so that a test could be devised for determining whether language is obscene for purposes of section 5503(a)(3) or is protected speech under the First Amendment.
The Bryner Court considered whether an appellant who shouted, "Go to hell, Betsy", was properly convicted of a disorderly conduct summary offense under section 5503(a)(3).
In Bryner, the appellant therein, Brady L. Bryner, was standing near the rear of an auction building voicing his views about a teacher strike.
Several hundred people were in attendance at the auction when Betsy Long, one of the owners of the auction building, asked Bryner to leave the building.
He then shouted the statement in question.
In determining whether Bryner's utterance constituted obscene language under section 5503(a)(3), the Bryner Court adopted the test set forth in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S. Ct. 2607, 37 L. Ed. 2d 419 (1973), pertaining to whether materials are obscene or protected by the First Amendment.
That test is:
(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law;
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Bryner, 652 A.2d at 912 (quoting Miller, 413 U.S. at 24, 93 S. Ct. at 2615).
This Court determined that the language used by Bryner was not obscene under the Miller test.