Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 23, 2024

Today, the Senate State Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would chill freedom of expression on state-funded college campuses and performance centers.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1178, legislation that would prohibit the hosting of programs with “obscene live conduct” on institutions controlled by the Board of Regents.

“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,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Everyone has the right to decide what art or entertainment programs they want – or do not want – to attend or watch. The only thing obscene here is the efforts by some of our elected officials to thwart our First Amendment rights.”

House Bill 1178 is not the only bill this year to address freedom of expression. House Bill 1113, legislation that would have prohibited the hosting of “lewd or lascivious” programs or events like drag shows on state-funded facilities on college campuses, was killed by the House State Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 184, legislation that would define drag performances as harmful to minors and make it a crime, was killed by the Senate Education Committee.

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.