Opposed LGBTQ book censorship

We issued a statement supporting the Vinton Public Library. It temporarily closed after backlash about LGBTQ books and the resulting resignations of two directors and other staff.  

Educated Iowans about their social media free speech rights

We created materials detailing the rights people have if they have been blocked or censored by Iowa public officials on social media.

Fought anti-free speech panhandling laws in Iowa cities

We sent demand letters to the cities of Bettendorf, Davenport, Coralville, and Dubuque urging them to repeal ordinances that forbid panhandling in public spaces. We believe these ordinances are unconstitutional and wrongly block individuals’ free speech rights.


Opposed an extreme anti-protest law

We opposed Gov. Reynolds signing Senate File 342, a bill that gave law enforcement even less accountability. Among other things, this law codified broad immunity, stiffened criminal penalties for some protest-related offenses, and created a new penalty for people who are attending a lawful protest that turns unlawful, and who don't leave in time.

This law was clearly passed in retaliation for Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and intended to stifle lawful protesters. It is nothing less than an attack on free speech in our state.

Opposed a law censoring public school discussions about racism and sexism

We opposed House File 802, the "defined concepts" law that is intended to censor and shut down speech about systemic racism and sexism. The law targeted the speech of employees of state and local government, schools, colleges, and universities. But it also sought to apply these restrictions on speech to private persons, nonprofits, and businesses that contract with those government entities.

Spoke out against county prosecutor overreach after Black Lives Matter protests

We called for reform of the Polk County Attorney's Office after the wrongful arrest and prosecution of Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri while she covered a Black Lives Matter protest. She was subjected to excessive force, and what appeared to be retaliation for exercising the First Amendment right to newsgathering. A jury acquitted Andrea of all charges.

Opposed “The 1619 Project” ban

In 2020, we opposed legislation that was introduced to ban public schools, community colleges, and state universities from using “any United States history curriculum that in whole or in part is derived" from the 1619 Project.” The 1619 Project is a New York Times Pulitzer-Prize-winning series led by a Black woman from Waterloo that discussed the devastating and continuing impact of slavery. The bill did not pass in the Iowa Legislature.


Successfully challenged state capitol bans on Black Lives Matter protesters

We filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters that were banned from the Iowa State Capitol for periods ranging from six months to one year by the Iowa State Patrol. The bans blocked our five clients’ fundamental constitutional rights.

In 2021, the case was settled with an agreement to withdraw the bans from our clients and other protesters. The law enforcement agencies agreed not to issue similar bans in the future, to continue providing training on First Amendment rights to the Iowa State Patrol, and to pay a financial settlement to the ACLU’s five clients and attorney fees.


Opposed an LGBTQ book burning

We issued a statement condemning an LGBTQ book burning that occurred in Orange City.

Successfully blocked a law aiming to silence critics of factory farms and other animal facilities

We filed a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of Iowa’s newest ag gag law. Ag gag 2.0 still criminalized investigations at agricultural facilities, including food and meat processing plants, livestock facilities, and puppy mills. The court ruled this law unconstitutional in 2022.

Won lawsuit for man who spoke out against a public official on Facebook

We filed a lawsuit in federal court defending the right of a Montgomery County man to post criticism of a nearby county sheriff's office on his Facebook page. A federal court ordered the Adams County Sheriff's Office to stop criminally charging people who criticize it. Additionally, the Adams County Sheriff's office agreed to pay Jon damages.

Fought for sex education funding

We filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland to block a law excluding it from receiving crucial funding to provide sex education for youth in Iowa. We argue that the law is unconstitutional under the Iowa Constitution partly because it violates free speech by punishing PPH for its constitutionally protected advocacy for abortion rights and affiliation with other organizations that also advocate for abortion rights and/or provide abortion services.

In 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court released a decision that will allow the state to impose legislation that bars organizations that provide or promote access to abortion from receiving sex education grant funding.


Won lawsuit for man who called out his city online for “rancid dog food” smell

We defended the right to free speech of Josh Harms, a man in Sibley, Iowa. He was sent a letter from the City of Sibley threatening legal action after he created a website called “Should you Move to Sibley?” that was critical of the city's inaction in addressing the smell of an agricultural blood processing plant. The City agreed to provide training on the First Amendment for city staff, issue a written apology to Josh, and pay damages and attorneys’ fees.

Successfully challenged anti-free speech panhandling laws in Iowa cities

As a partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, we sent demand letters to the cities of Des Moines, Council Bluffs, and Grimes for ordinances that forbid panhandling in public spaces. We believed these ordinances were unconstitutional and wrongly blocked individuals’ free speech rights. After receiving the letters, all three cities changed their ordinances on panhandling.


Successfully challenged a city’s yard sign censorship

We sent a demand letter to the City of Windsor Heights to defend two couples’ First Amendment rights to free speech after they each posted signs on their properties that were critical of the Des Moines suburb’s actions on sidewalks. One couple was threatened with fines of up to $1,000 a day and another family with having their sign torn down by the city. The City of Windsor Heights eventually agreed to amend its sign regulation ordinance.

Secured a win for a transgender student punished for exercising free speech rights

We resolved a case involving a Newton High School transgender student who was belittled and reprimanded after he wrote a political message on his arm. The student’s family contacted the ACLU, which in turn sent a demand letter to the school. The school apologized to the student and conducted training and education for teachers and students.

Blocked prosecutor overreach

We filed a lawsuit for teen Nancy Doe to stop an Iowa prosecutor from charging her with a crime for engaging in protected expression by sending non-nude selfies.


Successfully challenged a city’s protest censorship

We sent a legal demand letter to the City of Marion, Iowa, on behalf of Rick Stewart, a lawful political demonstrator who was prevented from holding a political sign in a sidewalk area along a Marion street by police. Mr. Stewart was told he would need to have a special permit with 72-hour notice to do so. The Marion City Council has since revised its unconstitutional ordinance.


Preserved students’ free speech rights on social media

Bullying has no place in Iowa's schools, but neither does monitoring student speech 24/7. That's why we successfully fought anti-bullying bills that required administrators to monitor student social media activity in an unconstitutional manner.

Secured a win against flag desecration laws

We provided legal assistance to a northwestern Iowa man, Homer Martz, who protested a pipeline running through his land by flying an American flag upside down with a Chinese flag "because they don't have rights in China either." A local sheriff saw a picture of the flag display and charged Martz with flag desecration. The charges were successfully dropped.

Blocked a bill against nudity in performances

We successfully lobbied against a bill that would limit nudity in live performances, which could restrict theatrical productions including "Hair" and other mainstream theatrical productions. We also challenged in federal court an Iowa law on nudity in live performances.

Secured the free speech rights of an elected official

We defended former Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett, who was reprimanded by the Iowa Campaign Ethics Board for using his personal cell phone in his office to engage in core political speech.


Fought for the Occupy Movement’s free speech rights

We worked to ensure that Occupy Movement participants were not restricted or misled in the legitimate exercise of their rights to protest.


Successfully blocked a law aiming to silence critics of factory farms and other animal facilities

We worked against Iowa's "ag gag" law. We were successful in blocking some of the worst elements of the bill, but the bill was passed. In January 2019, a court held that Iowa’s “ag gag” law is unconstitutional.


Defended the rights of students to wear anti-abortion t-shirts

We represented two high school students who wanted to wear anti-abortion T-shirts to school.

Successfully challenged state flag desecration laws

Even though we vehemently disagree with Westboro Baptist Church's beliefs, we successfully defended its right to drag and "air spit" on the flag during protests in three cities. Iowa's unconstitutional flag desecration laws were ultimately struck down.


Secured a historic win at the Iowa Supreme Court for students’ free speech rights

Tinker was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 1969. Three Des Moines middle and high-school students were forbidden from wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. We defended them and won a landmark case for student free speech.