Today, the House Education Committee voted to kill House Bill 1163, legislation that would have prohibited libraries from offering materials “harmful to minors.”
The ACLU of South Dakota opposed House Bill 1163. The bill was a blatant attempt at censorship, pure and simple.
“To be sure, no one is going to agree on the merits of every book on a library’s shelf,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “But we are steadfast in our belief that we do not get to decide what others read – and neither should the government. We’re thrilled that the House Education committee agrees.”
Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court set the high constitutional bar that defines obscenity — a narrow, well-defined category of unprotected speech that excludes any work with serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Since then, few if any books have been deemed obscene. And the standards for restraining a bookseller or library’s ability to distribute a book are even more stringent.
“The First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of speech and the right to access information has created a beautiful marketplace of ideas in our country,” Chapman said. “Each of us gets to choose what books we read and what information we access — but we don’t get to choose for other people. Doing so is un-American and unconstitutional.”
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.