updated 6/2/2005 9:04:18 AM ET 2005-06-02T13:04:18

The name of the Lord may no longer be taken in vain in the Dutch village of Staphorst.

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Staphorst, in the so-called Dutch “bible belt” of eastern towns where religion holds sway, approved a ban on swearing by 13-4 council votes.

But the caveat that swearing is not banned when it is an expression of the constitutional freedom of speech may make it difficult to punish offenders.

“A ban on swearing can be seen as a signal,” the council’s proposal said, adding a change in moral values was needed to address the underlying problem.

Past swearing bans in bible-belt villages were declared in violation of the right to free expression in 1986. One other town has such a ban -- Reimerswaal, in the southwestern province of Zeeland.

The Dutch association against swearing (www.bondtegenhetvloeken.nl), which runs national billboard campaigns to admonish the bad-mouthed Dutch, says the Bible outlaws swearing.

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” it quotes Exodus 20:7.

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