AG Rowe Files Civil Rights Action Against Lewiston Man For Throwing Pig's Head Into Mosque

July 20, 2006

JAttorney General Steven Rowe announced today that his office has filed an action under the Maine Civil Rights Act against Brent Matthews, 33, of Lewiston as a result of Matthews' targeting Somali and Muslim residents by intentionally throwing a frozen pig's head into a mosque located at 21-23 Lisbon Street in Lewiston on July 3, 2006. The complaint alleges that Matthews' action was motivated by his bias against the mosque members for their race, color, ancestry, national origin and religion. The complaint was filed in Superior Court in Auburn and requests that the court order Matthews not to have any contact with the mosque or its members, and to obey the Maine Civil Rights Act.

The complaint alleges that Matthews' throwing the pig's head into the mosque was a threat of violence directed at the members of the mosque, interfered with the members' First Amendment right to freedom of religion and resulted in property damage. Pork is the dirtiest and most vile substance in Islamic culture. The threat communicated by the pig's head being thrown into the sanctuary of the mosque caused some of the worshipers to flee. The pig's head is considered so vile in Islamic culture that the worshipers themselves were prohibited by religious doctrine from touching it or picking it up. In the days following the July 3 invasion, there was a marked decrease in the number of worshipers attending prayers at the mosque. In order to increase the worshipers' feeling of safety, members of the mosque took additional security measures to prevent further incidents of invasion.

Members of the mosque closed the front and back entryways to the mosque, even though the summer temperatures were high, to prevent non-worshipers from gaining entry to the mosque. Although the number of worshipers at the mosque is returning to normal, the sense of fear about "what could happen next" persists. The mosque was also damaged because fluid from the pig's head leaked onto the carpeted floor of the mosque. In accordance with Islamic religious practice, the area of the carpet that was desecrated by the pig had to be washed and cleaned seven times.

Attorney General Steve Rowe said, "The right to practice one's chosen religion is a bedrock principle upon which this nation was founded. It is deeply troubling to see that right interfered with in such a clear and heinous way on the evening before we celebrated the anniversary of our birth as a nation. One only need listen to the members of the mosque to realize the pain that this incident caused and the fear that it fostered.

"As a civil society and one governed by the rule of law, it is our obligation to take the legal steps necessary to make sure that Maine people who practice Islam and people of all other faiths feel completely free and safe to worship without violent interference from others. Hopefully, this step will help the healing process."