Editorial by The Dickinson (N.D.) Press

Monday, July 13, 1998

North Dakota Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan will apparently hold key votes in an upcoming constitutional showdown.

Not unlike a bad penny, an amendment to make it unconstitutional to burn an American flag has once again reached the U.S. Senate. And according to an Associated Press story, the amendment is only three or four votes short of passing the Senate.

What is truly amazing is that this amendment is that close to passing. Reacting to the emotional outcry of various groups, it would appear that many senators are willing to jeopardize the Bill of Rights rather than face these outbursts.

There are many aspects of a free society that we find repugnant, reprehensible or simply disagreeable.

The fact remains that in order to assure those rights, we must love them so adamantly as to allow obtuse behavior and foreign ideas to exist.

We do not agree with a terrorist group called the Ku Klux Klan, the bigotry and consuming hate of neo-Nazis, the fundamentally flawed vision of Communism or the simple minded extremism of militant so-called militia groups. But we can hardly argue with their right to exist, assemble, play war, march, burn books, or do whatever keeps them happy.

As long as they do not infringe on another’s rights, we do not have the right to legislatively eliminate their right to exist.

Education is the answer to aberrant behavior. Legislation is not.

This amendment is wrong. Conrad and Dorgan should once again have the fortitude to do what is right.

Even if it hurts.