Posted: October 01, 2009
8:05 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
A Christian organization in Maine has filed a lawsuit to challenge a bureaucratic decision to impose a $4,000 fine for its “criticism” of Islam, expressed in a mailing to supporters.
The action was taken on behalf of the Christian Action Network by Liberty Counsel, where founder Mathew Staver said the state is out of line.
“The chief purpose of the First Amendment was to prevent the government from licensing the press,” Staver said. “Citizens do not need permission to petition government officials or to protest government policies.”
The issue developed following a Christian Action Network fundraising letter several months ago. The letter exposed “how some public schools were promoting Islalm by providing instruction on the Five Pillars of Islam and the Quran,” according to the complaint against the state.
“The letter pointed out that some schools have provided a ‘prayer room’ for Muslims and one textbook that told seventh grade students they ‘will become Muslim.’ The letter listed Gov. John Baldacci as a person who is over the public schools and someone to whom the recipients of the letter should voice their opinion,” the complaint said.
State officials then alleged the letter contained “an inflammatory anti-Muslim message” and used the governor’s name without his permission and canceled the group’s registration, imposed a $4,000 fine and said it no longer could send out letters.
That came at the same time the state was asked to renew the business license for CAN, and deposited and cashed the check for that process.
This week, the lawsuit was filed because of the free speech challenges and censorship.
“The state of Maine has no business licensing one viewpoint on controversial issues and cannot deny speech because some bureaucrat deems it ‘anti-Muslim,'” said Staver.
Christian Action Network officials said the letter was dispatched to expose Islamic advocacy in public schools and ask citizens to sign a petition to their governor opposing the programs.
The accusations then came from the state Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. “The correspondence contained an inflammatory anti-Muslim message,” state officials proclaimed.
“How is it illegal to mention a politician’s name in a charitable solicitation letter?” said Martin Mawyer, CAN president, in a web posting before the lawsuit was filed. “Are we the only charitable group to mention the governor’s name without his written consent? Of course not. So why are we being singled out?
“Clearly this is a case based on selective prosecution using a law that is patently unconstitutional,” he said at the time.
He said the motive, however, is clear.
“The state of Maine believes our letter is offensive to Muslims and they want us to shut up or pay up. They are accusing us of ‘hate speech’ without directly calling it ‘hate speech.’ They want to set a legal precedent which other states can follow for suppressing free speech they find offensive,” he said.
The letter had criticized a decision in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California that affirmed the right of public schools to ask students to dress up as Muslims, wear the Islamic crescent moon and star, chant “Praise be to Allah,” learn the five pillars of Islamic belief and cite Muslim prayers.
The letter also cited examples of public schools removing pork from their menus, installing footbaths in tax-funded universities and an attempt in San Diego to separate boys from girls according to Islamic doctrine,