Mowles sued, arguing that the commission’s unwarranted meddling had cost him the Republican nomination.

“The government doesn’t have the right to control political speech,” says Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mowles. “Mr. Mowles was making use of comments already in the public sphere. It’s up to the people, not his opponent and not the government, to decide whether or not that’s appropriate.”

Mowles’s case was heard this past March in Cumberland County Superior Court, which ruled against him. Next stop, according to his lawyer, David Lourie: the Maine Supreme Court. Let’s hope the justices stand up for the right of candidates to campaign and of voters to vote, free from interference on the part of those who claim they love democracy so much that they need to smother it.

Jose Duarte
Boston English headmaster accused of squelching protest
It is with some trepidation that we wade into the murky waters of a civil lawsuit. Jeffrey Herman claims he was let go as a substitute teacher at Boston English High School because he had spoken out at a city-council hearing against the school system’s $1.2 million Junior ROTC program. English High School headmaster Jose Duarte, in a response filed by school-department lawyers, counters that he put Herman on a “do not call” list because of Herman’s “poor performance and inappropriate behavior as a substitute teacher.”

But regardless of who’s telling the truth, the issue raised by Herman is a crucial one and worth calling attention to. Certainly the ACLU of Massachusetts thinks so, as it is representing Herman in court. And there is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that he may have a case: according to the ACLU, Duarte is “a former military man who has ‘Reveille’ played over the school loudspeaker in the mornings.”

Says Herman: “I testified to city councilors that taxpayer dollars would be better spent on teaching kids how to stop the violence that is plaguing our city. Apparently headmaster Duarte couldn’t tolerate my expressing that point of view.” (Editor's note: After the print edition of the Phoenix went to press, the city agreed to pay Herman a $15,000 settlement, but did not admit to any wrongdoing on Duarte's part.)

If the First Amendment means anything, surely it ought to protect a public schoolteacher who speaks against the military recruiters who seek to enlist vulnerable high-school students, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds and see few other opportunities in life.

If Duarte acted out of a desire to silence Herman, then he couldn’t have offered a worse example to the young people he leads. Perhaps the school song ought to be changed from “Reveille” to “Taps.”

 

On the Web
Dan Kennedy's Media Nation: http://medianation.blogspot.com/

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