Today, Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed Senate Bill 2360, an unconstitutional book ban bill that was a blatant attempts at censorship, pure and simple.
The ACLU of North Dakota opposed Senate Bill 2360. The First Amendment protects literary expression, even when some people find portions of the works difficult or objectionable.
“To be sure, no one is going to agree on the merits of every book on a library’s shelf,” said Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager. “But who decides what is considered obscene or sexually explicit? Government officials cannot impose their personal moral values on others. Doing so violates our First Amendment rights. We’re thrilled that Gov. Burgum 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.
“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. Everyone should have the freedom to read,” Schuler said.
While Gov. Burgum vetoed Senate Bill 2360, he signed House Bill 1205, legislation that adds restrictions to materials offered in public libraries.
Supporters of House Bill 1205 say it will keep inappropriate books and other materials out of children’s hands, but there are already existing and effective policies in place on a local level that allow people to raise concerns about materials in libraries.
About the ACLU of North Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North 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 LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North 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 North Dakota.