Montana to pardon 78 WWI sedition convicts

May 3, 2006 at 11:16 AM

HELENA, Mont., May 3 (UPI) -- Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he will posthumously pardon 78 people -- mainly Germans -- who were convicted of sedition during World War I.

Schweitzer said the Wednesday pardons would try to right wrongs committed when anti-German sentiment swept the United States and former Gov. Sam Stewart's administration won unanimous approval of the Montana Sedition Act of 1918 -- the toughest such law in the nation.

The law, which expired at the end of World War I, made it a crime to say or publish anything "disloyal, profane, violent, scurrilous, contemptuous or abusive" about U.S. soldiers or the U.S. flag.

"I'm going to say what Gov. Sam Stewart should have said: I'm sorry, forgive me and God bless America, because we can criticize our government," Schweitzer told The New York Times.

The posthumous pardons were sparked by a University of Montana law student petition reacting to the 2005 Clem Work book "Darkest Before Dawn."

Work said U.S. reaction in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was eerily similar to that of 88 years ago.

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