February 20, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
ACLU of South Carolina: Victoria Middleton, (843) 720 1424, vmiddleton@aclusouthcarolina.org
SC Equality: Ryan Wilson, (803) 256-6500, ryan@scequality.org

The ACLU of South Carolina and South Carolina Equality oppose political interference with First Amendment freedoms and discrimination against the LGBT community in South Carolina, both of which are reflected in the SC House budget just passed by the House Ways and Means Committee.

According to press reports, the House budget-writing committee on Wednesday tentatively approved a spending plan for 2014-15 that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate. The proposed reductions in the budget equal what the colleges spent on freshmen programs that including the reading of texts dealing with sexual orientation and gender in the freshmen curriculum. Some legislators reportedly objected to assigning literature for “promotion of an LGBT lifestyle.”

The function of education is to stimulate thought, to explore ideas, to engender intellectual exchanges. To ban books because they are controversial strikes at the heart of the First Amendment and the spirit of open discourse essential to public education in a democratic republic.

The following may be attributed to Victoria Middleton, Executive Director, ACLU of South Carolina: “This kind of censorship not only threatens the core of academic freedom but also inhibits the free exchange of ideas so important to progress. The First Amendment was intended to protect all speech – even speech we don’t agree with -- and politicians shouldn’t be in the business of dictating what we think.”

The following may be attributed to Ryan Wilson, Executive Director, SC Equality: "College students in South Carolina hope to graduate and join a global workforce where they will work alongside gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Any effort by the legislature to suppress the academic freedom of our state's colleges and universities to teach about LGBT topics will negatively impact students' ability to prepare for careers in a diverse workplace."

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