By Carol McCracken (Post # 808)
Governor Paul LePage admited in a document filed with the federal court in Bangor today, that he never actually saw the labor history mural before ordering its removal from a reception area of the Maine Department of Labor over a weekend back in March. The secret removal of the labor history of the State of Maine spawned widespread protests, debate and a federal lawsuit over its removal and the national news.
According to the document, the Stipulation, the fax that complained about the mural compared the mural to ones in North Korea used “to brainwash the masses” and asks the Governor, ‘MR. LEPAGE, PLEASE TEAR DOWN THIS MURAL.” The Stipluation further indicates that the Governor’s chief economic advisor, John Butera, had seen the mural and found it offensive, according to a press release just received from the plaintiffs’ attorney, Jeffrey Neil Young, McTeague Higbee.
Following the removal of the mural, painted by Judith Taylor, five people filed a lawsuit alleging that the removal of the mual violated, among other things, the Frist Amendment. The Court subsequently on April 22 denied the Plaintiff’s request for an injunction, concluding that it was uncertain that Plaintiffs’ could prevail on their claim that the mural was the speech of Ms. Taylor rather than that of the government. The Governor also filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to have the federal claims dismissed. The Governor’s decision to remove the mural is government speech unprotected by the First Amendment.
“The mural was one of many works of art and historical documents displayed in the Department of Labor. In the same anteroom where the mural was displayed, there was also a framed historical pamphlet of an appeal to employers to oppose protective child labor legislation from earlier in the 20th century. No one is claiming that the pamphlet was government speech simply because it was displayed at the DOL any more than the mural was government speech. A reasonable person would understand that the viewpoints represented in the mural and in the pamphlet are those of the artist and author, not the government. We are confident that, whatever his own views, the judge will understand that a trial is necessary in this case to resolve this issue and will deny the summary judgment motion,” said Young in the same press release.
Co-counsel Jonathan Beal, a former plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in part: “…More and more, it seems to jsut have been a personal decision by Mr. LePage, based on his anti-worker and anti-union philosophy, and not a decsion by the state government which could be respected by the Court………..I have some serious questions about whether this was an actual complaint from a mmember of the public, as opposed to just somethng the Governor’s office cooked up. With a fax, we could see where it came from, but it appears that the fax was sanitized to prevent this.”
Please visit Post # 770, dated May 4, for more background information on the labor mural controversy.