Professor Will Fight for Freedom of Fecal Expression

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Kathleen Ensz will go on trial in May on a misdemeanor charge for "use of a noxious substance," based on an incident last year in which she wrapped some of her dog’s feces in a mailer she had received from the office of Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and returned the package to its point of origin.

Apparently, the perpetrator was unknown at the time, because the report says that Musgrave’s campaign believed, or claimed to believe, that the incident was a "political dirty trick," and demanded an apology from Musgrave’s likely Democratic opponent, state representative Angela Paccione.  The trick was certainly dirty, but Paccione’s campaign denied involvement.  (Paccione lost, but the effect if any of this incident is unclear.)  The report did not say how officials came to learn that Ensz was responsible.

Ensz, a Democrat, said she was tired of getting mailings from the congresswoman’s office and was simply expressing that view as clearly as possible.  Along those lines, Ensz’s lawyer, Patricia Bangert, is asserting a First Amendment defense.  The act was "probably crude and boorish," Bangert admitted, but was a form of political protest all the same, one that she compared to Thomas Jefferson’s criticism of King George III.

Not many people know that Jefferson left a burning bag of his own dung on the King’s porch as a protest against British policy in America.  His personal papers, now at the Library of Congress, contain notes describing his game plan thusly: "First, I shall draft and publish my pamphlet A Summary View of the Rights of British America, to set our case before the world.  Should this not prove efficacious, then we go with the poop bag."

Jefferson was not the only famous example cited by Bangert at Tuesday’s hearing.  "South Park" cartoon character "Mr. Hankey," described (correctly) as "an animated, talking piece of human excrement," was also invoked, apparently as evidence that it is common to use feces to express disdain.  "Etiquette and propriety aside, it is commonplace in today’s society to equate a distasteful or disliked person, situation or thing, to feces," Bangert said.  It’s hard to argue with that, but also hard to miss the distinction between equating a person with feces and actually giving them some.

Ensz will go on trial May 15, unless that argument works.

Link: AP via