Freedom To Express Hate

June 10, 1993

The so-called "church" group that puts out a newspape called Racial Loyalty is as hateful as it is full of hate. Published by the North Carolina-based Church of the Creator, this white supremacist rag preaches that blacks, Jews and "mud races" threaten the survival of Caucasians.

"Church" members, including skinheads, have distributed the paper in the Baltimore metropolitan area for the past few years, often in eastern Baltimore County. When hundreds of copies were dropped off at homes in Essex early last year, Sgt. James Mentzer of the county police responded to the complaints of residents by confiscating the papers.

Some people will find it hard not to support Sergeant Mentzer's action. He has explained that because the materials advocated violence against minorities, he made "the proper decision" by having the papers removed. After all, what else do you do with garbage but haul it away?

In this case, the First Amendment says you leave it be. Also, a regulation of the county police department stipulates that such a removal can take place only with the permission of the affected citizens. Sergeant Mentzer picked up all the Racial Loyalty papers in the Essex neighborhood, though not all the residents had asked police to do so. Thus he violated the departmental regulation.

For his mis-step, the sergeant had faced the possibility of three ,, days of forced leave. But a police trial board ruled this week that he would receive only a verbal reprimand. No hint of the incident will appear on his personnel record.

Credit the police department for handling this matter in what seems the most judicious way possible. Some sort of disciplinary action had to be taken against Sergeant Mentzer, and given the circumstances, this slap on his wrist is appropriate. Meanwhile, police officials should make certain the entire force fully understands the regulation in order to prevent further violations.

As a police spokesman said after the trial board hearing, "Policing in a democracy is tough. In the minds of most folks, Racial Loyalty is scurrilous stuff. But freedom of speech is a Constitutional right police officers are sworn to uphold."

Perhaps the greatest thing about this country is that on all but the rarest occasions, every person is free to speak his or her mind -- even when it is filled with hate and fear. Baltimore County residents should be glad their police department recognizes and respects that fact.

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