June 25, 1990, page S8647: We have gone through 200 years without amending the Bill of Rights. We have gone through two world wars, a Civil War, several major depressions, the expansion of the West, the addition of states. We have had Presidents who have acceded to office either in the normal electoral fashion, some tragically through death or assassination and one by resignation. And through all of that, with all these strains on our great Nation, not once did we ever think it was necessary to amend the Bill of Rights.
True patriotism means standing up for everything that the
American flag symbolizes and all the Bill of Rights stands for.
The first amendment is central to the constitutional framework; it ensures our right to say what we want, to pray or not to pray, and demand that our Government listen to our voices of dissent; it reflects the confidence the Founders had in the strength of our system of government. They knew that criticism of our leaders, of our policies, of our symbols, posed no threat to the survival of the Republic. America would not crumble, even as 200 years later publicity-hungry dissidents torched the flag for the benefit of television cameras * * * everything that we need to ensure that we will remain a democracy is in that first amendment. For those who felt that the diversity guaranteed by the first amendment, who felt as I do today, and felt 200 years ago that diversity would itself breed democracy, history has proven them right. We have found, though every challenge to our core principles and values, that the basic charter of human rights remains unscathed.
Our predecessors demonstrated wisdom and foresight. They recognized that the beauty of the Constitution lies in its simplicity. Let us demonstrate that same courage and prudence today.
Do we really want to say in the 101st Congress that after everything that has gone before us - from the birth of this Nation to today - that in over 200 years the image of people that we all despise burning the flag is one thing that provokes us to amend the Bill of Rights, nothing else was important enough? Or should we be remembered as the Congress and the Senate that stood up to the passions of the moment and said, `no matter what the political risk, no matter what the political posturing, we will protect the Bill of Rights first and foremost.`
We may see public opinion polls that say we should vote for this * * * I am able to cast a vote that contradicts a public opinion poll, but I could never cast a vote that contradicts my conscience. I could not do that and serve in this body even one minute longer. We, the 100 men and women in the U.S. Senate, must truly act as the conscience of our Nation. Ultimately, we have to do what is right. If we truly reflect that conscience, we will reject this amendment.Warren S. Apel