Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 28, 2023

Today, in 4-3 vote to defer the bill to the 41st day, the Senate Education Committee killed House Bill 1116, legislation that would have prohibited the hosting of “lewd or lascivious” programs or events on school campuses, universities and state-funded performance centers.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposed House Bill 1116. The government cannot limit expression just because any one person – or even a majority of a community – is offended by its content. In the context of art and entertainment, this means tolerating some works that others might find offensive, insulting or outrageous.

The following statement can be attributed to Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager.

“Who decides what is considered lewd and lascivious? It’s impossible to define lewd and lascivious in a way that isn’t hopelessly vague and subjective, and government officials cannot impose their personal moral values on others. The fundamental problem that arises when the government tries to mandate or prohibit speech is that it is necessarily subjective and is beholden to the whims of whoever is in the seat of power. The type of speech that is or isn’t allowed shouldn’t be subject to what speech legislators like or don’t like on any given day.  

Students have a right to express themselves, and students have a right to attend performances and presentations that express ideas and identities that enrich their educational experience.

“Freedom of expression for ourselves requires freedom of expression for others. This is at the very heart of our democracy. We’re thrilled that legislators on the Senate Education Committee recognized this and decided to kill this bill.”

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.