Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Augusta and the First Amendment

Some Democrats in Augusta are seriously in danger of running afoul of the spirit of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The issue involves two Democratic legislators who have asked businesses to disallow petitioners for the People's Veto from gathering signatures on their properties. They may have the right to do so, and businesses should certainly have the right to decide whether signature collection will be allowed on their property. But one remark by Rep. Jeremy Fischer of Presque Isle has me baffled, and just a little concerned.
"When I talked to the mall manager [at the Aroostook Center Mall] in Presque Isle, I told her she had to understand that [permitting the signatures to be gathered] opens up politics in your mall," Fischer said. "They made the decision with their legal counsel that they just didn't want either side doing anything on their property."
I don't understand why legal counsel would have any qualms about allowing petitioners on site, other than perhaps due to liability insurance. The implication here seems to be that the legal counsel thought that legal repercussions might arise from the very fact that petitioning was being allowed. Horse-hockey.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems to be pretty clear in its language: people have the right to petition the government, and government can't stop them from doing it.
Thanks to Slublog for pointing out this story.