29 Mercer L. Rev. 761 (1977-1978)
Skokie: The First Amendment under Attack by Its Friends

handle is hein.journals/mercer29 and id is 771 raw text is: Skokie: The First Amendment
Under Attack by its Friendst
David Goldberger*
The plan of 30 to 50 self-styled Nazis to picket in front of the Village
Hall in Skokie, Illinois, for half an hour on a Sunday afternoon, has gener-
ated an intense public attack on both the First Amendment and on the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), America's largest civil liberties
organization, which is defending it. The reason for the broadside attack is
that Skokie is a predominantly Jewish community. It has a total popula-
tion of about 70,000, about 40,500 of whom are Jewish. Approximately
3,000 are Jews who escaped Nazi-occupied portions of Europe.
The case is riddled with ironies. One of the most important is that those
who are most vigorously assailing the First Amendment, important seg-
ments of the Jewish community, the bar and the press, have traditionally
been numbered among its most vigorous defenders. Many, if not all, of its
attackers rely with particular necessity on the First Amendment to protect
their own communications. Many of its critics believe that an individual
or group which appropriates any of the symbols of Nazi Germany and
spouts racist slogans thereby waives any claim to constitutional rights.
Those more sophisticated in legal matters simply contend that the First
Amendment was never intended to protect the truly odious ideas of Nazi-
ism; or, if it were, then it should be either reinterpreted or changed. Vir-
tually all are furious.
The Skokie controversy has become so intense and bitter that it is rap-
idly becoming a test of the nature of post-Watergate America's commit-
ment to the First Amendment. Some, in their more apocalyptic moments,
are even claiming it is a test of the future of the Republic.
In March, 1977, a small group of Nazis whose base of activities for the
previous eight years had been a large Lithuanian community on the south-
west side of Chicago, decided to picket the Skokie Village Hall. The group
stated publicly that its sole intent was to protest an insurance requirement
which barred Nazi use of any of Skokie's public parks. Procurement of
$250,000 insurance was a prerequisite to use of the parks. Insurance com-
t Speech delivered on March 28, 1978, as the Sidney W. Hatcher Lecture at Walter F.
George School of law, Mercer University. The Mercer Law Review invites scholarly response.
* Legal Director, Illinois Division of the American Civil Liberties Union. University of
Chicago (B.A., 1963); University of Chicago Law School (J.D., 1967). Lecturer, IIT/Chicago-
Kent College of Law.

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