This Compromise Is Not Acceptable: South Carolina Governor Has Accepted a "Constitutionally Suspect" Budget Measure Amounting to an "Assault on Academic Freedom"

June 13, 2014. Charleston. Press Release. The National Coalition Against Censorship and the ACLU of South Carolina have been joined by the American Association of University Professors, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Dramatists Guild, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Modern Language Association and the National Council of Teachers of English in issuing a statement that strongly condemns a budget provision accepted yesterday by Governor Nikki Haley that penalizes two universities for assigning books about the lives and experiences of gays and lesbians.

The provision forces the two colleges to allocate the exact amounts spent on "objectionable" books to teach the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Federalist papers, "including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals."

A House proposal would have cut funding to the schools in order to penalize them for including books containing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes. Governor Haley has reportedly expressed appreciation for the Senate version, which was ultimately adopted, as a "compromise reached by lawmakers."

But according to NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin, "what has been 'compromised' here is the bedrock First Amendment principle that public officials are precluded by the First Amendment from suppressing ideas because they find them 'objectionable'."

Victoria Middleton, ACLU of South Carolina Executive Director noted that "the so-called compromise starts from the wrong place and represents alarming political interference with academic freedom that undermines the integrity of the higher education system in South Carolina." As the joint statement explains, "The history of the legislative debate makes it 100% clear that the legislature's primary concern is to force schools to eliminate educational content that some legislators dislike, or risk financial penalties."

NCAC and the ACLU-SC have vocally opposed the budget cuts since they were introduced in the legislature. More national academic and free speech organizations are expected to sign the statement in the next few days.