Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.


In printing off a few hundred postcards to invite Portland-based ACLU members to Monday’s event in observance of Banned Books Week. I began thinking about how the threats to freedom of speech have changed with the advent of the Internet. The Internet is perhaps the most speech-enhancing medium to date as it provides citizens from all walks of life with a voice. Not surprisingly, the strength of freedom of speech afforded by the Internet is constantly tested. This week, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recognized that a Facebook “Like” is protected by the First Amendment. "The Constitution doesn't distinguish between 'liking' a candidate on Facebook and supporting him in a town meeting or public rally," Ben Wizner, a director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said by email. Read more about the case in this news article. 

Constitution Day

Tuesday was Constitution Day. To celebrate here at the ACLU of Maine, we hosted Professor Abbe Smith of Georgetown University and Maine lawyers and law students for a conversation on criminal justice reform.  Professor Smith later spoke at the University of Maine School of Law, focusing on themes from her recent book entitled “How Can You Represent Those People,” a collection of criminal defense stories. She boldly stated, “I like guilty people. I prefer people who are flawed and complicated to those who are irreproachable.” Read more about her experience and thoughts on being a criminal defense lawyer here.

Reproductive Freedom

In an extensive interview with La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, Pope Francis criticized the church for having grown “obsessed” with moral doctrines regarding abortion, gay marriage and contraception. He stated, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” This interview signals a general shift in the Catholic Church’s priorities – and is perhaps counsel to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which has devoted considerable resources to fighting the contraception mandate in the Obama administration’s health-care program.  Read more in this news article and this blog. Find the entire interview here