Maine needs a sanity claus

For the record:

The controversial English beers known as Santa's Butt, Seriously Bad Elf and others of that ilk may now be sold in stores in Maine.

That's a decision made several days ago, too late to keep from impairing the distributor's holiday sales, but at least it was made.

The controversy began when Maine -- despite Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York having already plowed the same ground only to reverse the ruling -- decided the bottle labels were too racy and shouldn't be allowed to be sold.

The Maine Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shelton Brothers, the Massachusetts distributor that keeps getting hit with bans, accusing the state Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship.

Daniel Shelton, who runs the distributorship, said it is too late to sell the seasonal beers and that the lawsuit will be pursued unless the state changes its rule allowing it to deny applications for beer labels because they contain "undignified or improper" illustrations.

Unlike the other states that tried, and failed, to ban the beers, Maine went even further. It denied applications for Les Sans Culottes, a French ale, and Rose de Gambrinus, a Belgian fruit beer.

Their crime: Les Sans Culottes used part of 19th century painter Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People," (seen here) which includes a bare-breasted Lady Liberty figure. Good enough to hang in the Louvre, but too racy for Maine consumers, one supposes. The other beer has a bare-breasted woman in a painting commissioned by the brewery. Pigs!

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