Idaho State Police Agree to Permanent End to Restrictions on Artistic Expression

BOISE, Idaho- In a clear and swift victory against government censorship of artistic expression, the state has agreed that Idaho liquor laws that bar constitutionally protected free expression will be permanently halted and not enforced by the Idaho State Police in artistic venues across the state, putting an end to censorship of art throughout Idaho. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, along with Co-Counsel Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, of Ferguson Durham, PLLC and Jack Van Valkenburgh of Van Valkenburgh Law, PLLC, brought the lawsuit on behalf of the Visual Arts Collective, Alley Repertory Theater, and Boise performance artist Anne McDonald. 
 
“The state chose to settle the case because the forty year old statute is significantly flawed and violated clear constitutional rights of these artists and venues,” commented Deborah Ferguson of Ferguson Durham, PLLC, “We appreciate the State’s decision not to engage in protracted litigation, but instead to change course, and end these undercover operations.”
 
Under the settlement, the lawsuit will be revived in 2017 if the Idaho Legislature enacts unconstitutional changes to the statute. If the legislature fails to act, the permanent injunction will put an end to censorship of art throughout Idaho. In addition, the Visual Arts Collective’s license suspension will be lifted, the fine it paid returned, and the alleged violation cleared from its record. 
 
“We are relieved and overjoyed with this outcome,” said Justin Ness, Managing Director “knowing that we can produce our work as written without the threat of censorship and without jeopardizing our home at VAC and other venues is not only a huge win for Alley Rep, but for theater across the state,” said Alley Repertory Theater
 
The settlement was filed in federal court in Idaho today, September 28, 2016, less than two weeks after the case was filed. The settlement calls for a permanent injunction against the statute, Idaho Code section 23-614, prohibiting the State from enforcing the law against establishments that typically host performances expressing matters of serious literary, artistic, scientific or political value.
 
“While I still hope for a day that the gender of an unclothed breast is insignificant, I am pleased that we have come this far so quickly and artistic expression is more open to the artists’ discretion. I am thrilled the state has taken this matter seriously. I am utterly relieved that I no longer have to censor my work according to archaic, vague laws. I am so grateful to our legal team, their commitment to the first amendment and equal rights, and their tireless work on this matter. I know that artists, specifically burlesque performers, around the state will be overjoyed,” said Anne McDonald, of Frankly Burlesque.  
 
"We feel vindicated to have the suspension and fine lifted, and we are ecstatic that we settled the case so artists across the state are able to perform without censorship from the government, fear of losing a license or facing a steep fine. We cannot wait to get back to our mission of being a cultural centre producing great art for our community. We had planned an awareness event about this case for Thursday the 29th at 7pm and are thrilled that it will now be a celebration of our success," said Co-owner of the Visual Arts Collective, Samuel Stimpert. 
 
 “We look forward to working closely with the legislature during the 2017 session to ensure that artistic expression and the first amendment are celebrated and respected in Idaho’s statutes, ”said Leo Morales, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho. 
 
“This doesn’t happen often,” said Jack Van Valkenburgh.  “Within a month of the Idaho State Police extracting $8,000 from the Visual Arts Collective, and suspending their liquor license for 20 days, the police are effectively conceding that the law they’ve been using is unconstitutional.  Consequently, the State is returning the money to VAC and wiping clear its record of having been in violation.  Across the State of Idaho, the police should no longer be prosecuting arts venues and businesses serving alcohol based upon artists’ performances.  This victory is really sweet.”
 
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday, September 15, 2016, and alleged that Idaho Code section 23-614 was unconstitutional, limiting artistic expression where alcohol is served. The permanent injunction will allow Alley Repertory Theater’s production of The Totalitarians to open as scheduled on October 15th at the Visual Arts Collective, located in Garden City, Idaho.  
 
Information about events mentioned in the release:
Uncover Idaho Art Celebration party:
Thursday, September 29th, 2016 7pm-midnight
Visual Arts Collective
3638 Osage St., Garden City, Idaho 83714
 
The Totalitarians:
Shows start Oct 13th, 2016 and run through Oct 28th 
Visual Arts Collective
3638 Osage St., Garden City, Idaho 83714
 

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