"SKOKIE," Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. (2) (8)--This topical...

"SKOKIE," Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. (2) (8)--This topical 2 1/2-hour CBS movie premiered nearly four years ago. Yet its message--reaffirming Americans' right of free speech and assembly--is timeless.

The story works on two levels, as drama and as an important statement of the sanctity of constitutionally guaranteed legal rights.

Although "Skokie" takes some factual liberties, it is essentially a faithful account of a volatile 1977-78 controversy sparked by a tiny American Nazi group's announced intention to demonstrate in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, whose heavy concentration of Jews included a number of Hitler death camp survivors.

The city of Skokie reacted by trying to block the march in court and by enacting a number of ordinances banning Nazis from demonstrating there, claiming that the Nazis would cause anguish to the city's residents and have a potentially explosive result.

The central question: Do the rights of individuals--even individuals whose politics are as repugnant as those of Nazis--take precedent over the rights of a community?

In an ironic twist, the American Civil Liberties Union supported the Nazis' legal right to march in Skokie, an action that split the local ACLU chapter.

A creation of socially conscious Titus Productions and written by Ernest Kinoy and directed by Herbert Mann, "Skokie" features a fine cast. Among the drama's best performances is Danny Kaye's as a fictitious Jewish Holocaust survivor who refuses to take the advice of friends to ignore the Nazis. "That's what they told us in Germany," he replies.

The matter of the Nazi march was ultimately resolved, but not without raising painful legal and moral questions that transcend all communities and religions.

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