By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
The Amherst man who created the Free State Project, the Libertarian movement to transform New Hampshire into a liberty Mecca, lost his bid in court to silence a critic of his run for Planning Board.
Jason Sorens went to the Hillsborough Superior Court in Manchester this month seeking a restraining order against Wolfeboro Selectman Brian Deshaies, claiming Deshaies was waging a campaign of harassment and lies.
Sorens wanted a judge to order Deshaies to stop contacting him, to stay away from him, and to stop talking about him.
“Restrain (Deshaies) from spreading falsehoods about me to other people,” Sorens wrote.
Deshaies, for his part, claims he did nothing wrong, and simply made inquiries about Sorens, and exchanged emails with the Free State founder that contain factual information.
While neither Sorens nor Deshaies responded to a request for comment, Judge David Anderson ruled Monday there is no legal basis for Sorens’ request.
Sorens never alleged actual threatening behavior, and he did not provide any evidence that would require a judge to interfere with Deshaies’ free speech rights.
“(Sorens) has not laid a sufficient predicate for the issuance of a prior restraint on speech,” Anderson wrote in his dismissal order.
Sorens claimed in his complaint filed in court that Deshaies tried to get him fired from his job at Saint Anselm College, then he tried to get him fired from his current job at the libertarian think tank the American Institute for Economic Research, and Deshaies started telling Sorens’ neighbors that he had been fired from Saint Anselm’s.
Sorens also complains that Deshaies tried to get a reporter to write a negative article about him.
Deshaies states in his response that he never tried to get Sorens fired from any job. He contacted Saint Anselm to ask if Sorens was teaching from his Free State Manifesto, which advocates for seceding from the United States and calls for abolishing all government.
Sorens has recently amended his views on government, saying he no longer wants to abolish all government and allow capitalist markets to rule, but now he favors minimal government to provide basic services like police and firefighters.
Deshaies claims that while he did contact a representative at American Institute for Economic Research, it was to inquire about an unrelated matter, and he learned of Sorens’ job during that call.
Deshaies also claims that he never sent Sorens any harassing or threatening emails, and he never spread lies to his neighbors, as Sorens claimed.
“I have always been factual, polite, and have used no hateful words,” Deshaies wrote.
Deshaies admits he has contacted people in Amherst about Sorens and his Free State ideas, because Sorens is currently running for a position on the town’s Planning Board.
“I have made it clear he wrote the Free State Manifesto and that citizens should understand his stance on ‘Planning,’” Deshaies wrote.
The Free State Project, which has urged tens of thousands of people move to New Hampshire in order to change the government to being more Libertarian, has caused controversy in recent months. Last year, a small group of Free State Republican members of the House of Representatives proposed a bill to leave the United States.
A Free Stater was also behind the Croydon effort to slash the town’s school budget, and they played an outsized role in the drama surrounding Gunstock Mountain, which saw the paid managers all quit in protest until the Free State/liberty activists board members were forced out. Sorens has distanced himself from Gunstock and Croydon.