Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 15, 2023

Tomorrow, House lawmakers will consider legislation that would prohibit libraries from offering “explicit sexual material” to their patrons.

The ACLU of North Dakota opposes House Bill 1205. The bill, which was amended in the House Judiciary Committee, is a blatant attempt at censorship, pure and simple. The First Amendment protects literary expression, even when some people find portions of the works difficult or objectionable.

“Who decides what is considered explicit sexual material? Government officials cannot impose their personal moral values on others,” said Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager. “No one is going to agree on the merits of every book on a library’s shelf. 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. If you don’t like a book, there’s a simple solution: Don’t read it.”

While supporters of House Bill 1205 say it would keep inappropriate books and other materials out of children’s hands, nowhere does the vaguely written bill explicitly mention children. House Bill 1205 would prohibit materials for all patrons.

Additionally, there are already existing and effective policies in place on a local level that allow people to raise concerns about materials in libraries.

“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,” Schuler said. “Everyone should have the freedom to read.”

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.