Thursday, October 01, 2009

Christian Group Sues Challenging Maine's Interpretation of Its Charitable Licensing Law

In June, the Charitable Solicitations section of Maine's Office of Licensing & Registration imposed a civil penalty of $3000 on the Christian Action Network, finding that it had violated 9 MRS Sec. 5013 by using Governor John Baldacci's name in a letter soliciting contributions without the Governor's consent. (CAN Release.) The solicitation letter complained that some of Maine's public schools were promoting Islam by providing instruction on the Five Pillars of Islam and the Koran and that some schools provide a prayer room for Muslims. It urged recipients of the letter to contact the Governor to complain.

10 MRS Sec. 8003(5) allows the agency to impose a civil penalty of up to $1500 for each violation of law. Apparently the state, as a condition to granting a renewal of CAN's license as a charitable organization, also required it to admit both that the Governor did not give his consent and that CAN's "correspondence contained an inflammatory anti-Muslim message." Yesterday, Liberty Counsel announced that CAN had filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Maine challenging an interpretation of the state statute that prohibits any mention of the Governor in a charitable solicitation without consent. The suit also claims that CAN's free speech was infringed by "censoring" of its anti-Muslim message.

UPDATE: Here is the full text of the complaint in Christian Action Network v. State of Maine, (D ME, filed 9/28/2009). The Bangor Daily News has more coverage and a link to the text of CAN's mailing.