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Does Maine have Hate Speech laws?

Apparently bureaucrat Elaine Thibodeau, of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, thinks it does. Thibodeau sent a letter to the Christian Action Network concerning a fund-raising letter it sent out this year. Thibodeau's letter of accusation contains a list of charges, a fine for $4,000, and a place for CAN's leaders to sign that they admit to all the charges and waive their right to appeal.

Among the allegations are #5, "The correspondence contained an inflammatory anti-Muslim message."

To which my immediate reply is, "So? This is illegal?"

Interestingly, the $4,000 fine is actually being levied for two other alleged violations. The first is sending out a fund-raising letter without being properly registered as a non-profit. But actually CAN has canceled checks showing that it was duly registered in 2008, and the state doesn't make any claim to the contrary. The letter in question was sent before the end of the renewal grace period for 2009 re-registrations, so their 2008 registration should still have been in effect. Moreover, the state's complaints about missing paperwork for their 2009 registration seem plausibly to have been cooked up for harassment purposes when the state decided it disapproved of the group's message.

More worriesome is the $3000 portion of the fine for using the state governor's name without his written consent! The fund-raising letter urges recipients to write to the government concerning a pro-Muslim public school curriculum (with Muslim prayer "play-acting"), urging him to stop the institution of the curriculum. Anyone who gets mailings from non-profit organizations recognizes this sort of lobbying suggestion quite well. If it is illegal in Maine to urge people to write to the governor without the governor's written consent, Maine has serious First Amendment problems.

But back to the "inflammatory" speech thing:

What is that allegation even doing on there? If it is illegal to propogate an "inflammatory anti-Muslim message," why is no fine assessed? If it is not illegal, why is this listed as if it is a charge which the group must admit to? The bullying involved here seems pretty evident. If CAN signs the consent form, it is tacitly admitting that it should not send "inflammatory anti-Muslim messages" through the mail, and that will be the end of the important work that it does, which has included getting out information about jihad camps operating in the United States.

Let me add that, with the help of a Jihad Watch reader, I have looked up and read what appear to be all of Maine's "hate crime" laws. As I suspected, and consistent with what I know about "hate crimes" laws in the U.S., there are no laws referring to "hate speech" or "inflammatory messages." Every single one of Maine's "hate crime" laws involves an underlying crime--violence, threat of violence, destruction of property, threat of destruction of property, etc. The most mild of these (silly enough) is threat of trespass on property. And such crimes are treated specially if motivated by the usual list--race, religion, sexual preference, blah, blah. (As someone said to me, "I'm going to walk across your lawn without your permission because you're a Methodist. So there!" And that's a hate crime.) All of which is objectionable enough, in all conscience, because exceedingly minor crimes can be thereby elevated to a higher criminal status on ideological grounds. But still, America remains different from Europe because of the need for an underlying crime, however minor. As far as I know, merely engaging in speech that "incites hatred" and such is not formally and officially illegal in the United States. But I fear people are becoming increasingly confused about this matter, and Elaine Thibodeau seems to be one of those who wants to hurry history along a little and get rid of that pesky little concept of (anything remotely resembling) free speech--at least when it's politically incorrect.

I'm glad to say that CAN is appealing the fines and not agreeing to any such charges. May their appeal (and a possible lawsuit against the state) prosper. Meanwhile, I guess the rest of us had better send out whatever "inflammatory anti-Muslim messages" we deem necessary while there is yet time, before the Elaine Thibodeaus of the world are in charge of our country.

HT Jihad Watch

Comments (7)

I wonder what sort of jurisdiction and authority the "Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation" has. Given its title, it seems logical enough that the fine would be levied concerning a "non-profit" quibble. But concerning itself with "hate speech" allegations, even if applicable laws existed, seems out of its authority.

As for the governor's name thing...I don't know where to begin. Someone should be get fired for that one. Everyone from the person who composed the charge to the people who proofread the letter should probably get it for letting that obvious bit of nonsense out the door. The lovely state Maine has been embarrassed and needs redress.

Hmmm! Makes you wonder where they would stand if, let's say, a public employee at a state university called Christians "the Maine Mullahs" on a server owned by the people of Maine. Who would be the offended party, the Christians or the Muslims?

Since Maine is adjacent to Canada, its Department of Professional and Financial Regulation must be an adjunct of Canada's Human Rights Commission.

Have more of these messages gone out to people unwilling to make a fuss? Is there a profitable pattern?

Non-profits, especially churches, may be used to government officials overlooking technicalities in the interests of public service. In a more hostile world, officials will assume that enforcing technicalities against disfavored groups *is* their public service.

How many of our liberties rest upon the sympathetic forbearance of piddling bureaucrats?

(I had forgotten that investigation into FUQRA Colorado Islamic militants, if I even knew about it in the first place.)

Good question. And I don't know, and probably we won't ever know.

I was told today that some relatives know a person who was harassed by child protective services and told that she could be told the name of the person who had lodged a complaint against her if she paid a fee of $300. This sounds absolutely crazy to me, like a blatant shake-down scam. I wonder how much of that sort of thing goes on.

If I had to guess I'd say linking hate crime to threat of trespass is probably in reference to cross-burning on someone's lawn or similar forms of intimidation.

Maybe, but the law is not limited to that. Trespass and threat of trespass are merely listed along with everything else.

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