South Dakota (June 5, 2023) – Today, the Liberty Justice Center filed a federal First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of Students for Life Action against the Attorney General of South Dakota, challenging a state law that forces nonprofits to name their top donors in all of their communications with the public about elected officials, candidates, or ballot issues.
The South Dakota law requires nonprofits to include this information in any communication that mentions an elected official, a candidate, or a ballot question—even if it doesn’t tell the public how they should vote, and even if it occurs years before an election.
This violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which includes the right not to speak a government-mandated message.
Beyond that violation of a basic First Amendment right, this mandate causes harm in several ways. First, it exposes a nonprofit’s donors to “cancel culture” and doxxing attacks from people who disagree with the organization’s message. Second, it associates an organization’s donors with the organization’s political message, even though a donor might have had nothing to do with that message and might have donated to the group for other reasons. And third, including a government-mandated message in an advertisement distracts from the organization’s intended message.
“In recent years, we’ve seen activists use ‘cancel culture’ attacks and similar intimidation to silence people they disagree with. 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,” said Jacob Huebert, President of the Liberty Justice Center and one of the attorneys representing Students for Life Action. “This law violates the First Amendment, and we look forward to the courts striking it down.”
The Liberty Justice Center represents Students for Life Action in Students for Life Action v. Jackley, which it filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota on June 5, 2023. The case filings can be found here.
The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, public-interest litigation center that fights to protect fundamental constitutional rights. The Liberty Justice Center is best known for its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. Learn more about the Liberty Justice Center at LibertyJusticeCenter.org.