The Center Square

Group Says South Dakota Law Violates the First Amendment

June 6, 2023

(The Center Square)—Students for Life is suing South Dakota over a law requiring nonprofits that express their political views to name their top five donors.

The organization said in a federal lawsuit the law violates their First Amendment right to free speech. The law applies to expenditures over $100.

Organizations that violate the law could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable by 30 days in jail, a possible $500 fine, or both. If there is a second violation within a year, the charge becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor which carries a penalty of a year in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both.

Students for Life spent more than $116 the day before the 2022 primary election sharing information about 12 state lawmakers’ views on chemical abortions, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for South Dakota. The organization plans to spend more than $100 in the next two years talking about candidates, political parties and officeholders.

Jacob Huebert, president of the Liberty Justice Center representing Students for Life Action in the lawsuit, said activists use “cancel culture” to silence those with opposing views.

“South Dakota should not encourage these attacks on free speech by forcing nonprofits to ‘doxx’ their own donors every time they speak out about issues, candidates, or elected officials,” Huebert said in a statement.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life Action, said some of the organization’s donors want their information kept private. Donors could also be discouraged from giving to nonprofits for fear their names would be disclosed, the organization said in the lawsuit provided by the Liberty Justice Center.

“Threats of retaliation against social conservatives too often lead to real violence and loss of livelihood, which should not be the price of free speech. Protecting people’s political engagement is a reasonable precaution, which is why our lawsuit has been filed in South Dakota,” Hawkins said.

A spokesman with the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office said they had not been served with the lawsuit.

“In the event, the Attorney General, or a proper state official is served, the Attorney General will undertake its responsibility to defend our state statutes, Constitution and officials,” the office said in a statement.