Prosecutors say Anti-Muslim cartoons protected by Constitution
In a story that has been picked up by The New York Times and the AP, The St. Cloud Times is reporting that two county prosecutors will not file charges against a man they say has admitted to posting anti-Musim cartoons near a mosque, a Somali-owned store and other places in and around St. Cloud.
Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall and Benton County Attorney Robert Raupp, in separate letters to St. Cloud City Attorney Jan Petersen, said the cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad having sex with animals represented protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations condemned the cartoons as hate speech.
Investigators say the man told them that Muslims are "anti-Christian" and that he found the images online and thought it would be "cool" to post them on utility poles in the St. Cloud area.
"While I do not condone the crude and distasteful messages which the suspect in this case attempted to convey, criminal prosecution under the statutes available to this office would not be successful," Raupp writes. More:
Kendall wrote that the cartoons were political speech, and that the suspect was educating people rather than threatening them. More:
Petersen told the paper he had not decided on whether to file other charges.
After news spread about the cartoons in December, Minnesota CAIR spokeswoman Jessica Zikri called on community leaders to speak out.
"We believe there is a direct correlation between anti-Muslim rhetoric and bias incidents targeting American Muslims," she said. "Our state's political and religious leaders need to speak out strongly against anti-Muslim hate, just as they would speak out against any other form of intolerance."