LaVonne Goetsch, Belfield, N.D., letter: State senator overreacted to harmless letterState Sen. Olafson’s claim that the note was threatening has been roundly mocked by journalists throughout the state who have seen it, and the Highway Patrol itself has confirmed that the note was not problematic either in tone or content.
By: LaVonne Goetsch,
BELFIELD, N.D. — As Americans, we continually face an onslaught against our constitutional rights. But here in our beloved North Dakota, we do not often worry about that happening on a state level. We believe and trust in our fellow man and especially those who we elect to run our state and local government. We trust they are ethical and moral people.
But now, due to the actions of a state senator, I am concerned for the loss of our freedom — and more important, the right of my eight children and 23 grandchildren to freedom of speech without fear of retaliation from government.
Last spring, I wrote a note to state Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, criticizing his decision to sabotage a pro-life bill. Olafson claimed the note I wrote him was threatening to his safety and had the North Dakota Highway Patrol investigate. I received a visit at my home from a highway patrolman.
Olafson’s claim that the note was threatening has been roundly mocked by journalists throughout the state who have seen it, and the Highway Patrol itself has confirmed that the note was not problematic either in tone or content.
Olafson’s decision seemed not to be about safety but rather about using his position of authority to harass those who question his actions. In my view, this misuse of taxpayers’ money was a way of making a North Dakota resident be fearful and intimidated for expressing views that Olafson hoped to keep out of view. I believe he thought this would keep me from expressing my views and out of the Capitol in the future.
It is extremely important that citizens of our state protect their rights and liberties granted to us by the Constitution. We must preserve our right of free speech in support and dissent of matters being brought before our government bodies on every level without being trampled, coerced, and intimidated by state officials. Olafson clearly does not appreciate this freedom.
Editor's note: The Bismarck Tribune’s account of the episode Goetsch describes includes this paragraph of additional information:
“‘The content of the letter was not in question,’ (Highway Patrol Commander Neil) Johnson said, but he asked a Dickinson-based officer to stop by Goetsch’s house because officials believed the delivery of the letter didn’t follow proper protocol. Johnson said someone violated Senate rules by going beyond the brass rails that mark the Senate floor and setting it directly on a desk. Any material is supposed to be given to a sergeant at arms, who will then deliver it.”