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Controversial Removal of Maine Labor Mural Heads to Appeal

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 27, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The removal of a controversial mural by Maine Governor Paul LePage is heading to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court will determine if the governor was within his rights to remove the mural.

Was the mural entitled to First Amendment protection or was the removal of the mural protected government speech? The U.S. District Court has already ruled in favor of the latter.

The mural sits in the waiting area of the Department of Labor in Augusta, Maine. It was commissioned in 2008 at the request of then-Governor John Baldacci and with the use of $60,000 in state funds. The mural was meant to convey the value of the labor force and the history of Maine's labor, including depiction of a shoe-worker strike, child laborers and Rosie the Riveter.

The plaintiffs in the case include a group of two union officials and three artists.

Governor LePage said that his objection was not based on the content, but rather, on the use of government funds for the creation of the mural.

What do you think? Is the removal of the mural "government speech"? If the government puts it up, does it have the sole right to take it down?

While public parks and government buildings have been traditional forums for displays representing government viewpoint, the governor argues that the pro-labor nature of the content, essentially a viewpoint promulgated by the prior administration, give the current government the right to take the mural down.

The mural is currently in hiding, at the request of the governor.

Related Resources:

  • Browse First Circuit Court of Appeals Cases (FindLaw Cases)
  • Judge's Ruling on Maine Labor Mural to be Appealed (The Associated Press)
  • First Amendment and the Constitution (FindLaw)
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