Saturday, June 25, 2005

Flag Burning is Ultimate Free Speech

The U.S. Constitution hasn’t been successfully amended in decades. The last attempt at amending it that came close to succeeding was the proposed Equal Rights Amendment which was passed by Congress but never quite garnered ratification by three-fourths of states.

The 27th Amendment was finally ratified in the 1990s, but it was passed by Congress 200 years earlier, so that one doesn’t count. No successful amendment has been passed by Congress since the early 1970s.

That hasn’t stopped the U.S. House of Representatives from trying on more than one occasion to push through an amendment that would ban the desecration of the American Flag, such as by burning it.

Back it the 1980s, flag burning was a more popular means of protest than it is now. Congress passed a law that forbade burning the flag, but the U.S. Supreme Court rightly decided that the law was unconstitutional. It violated the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment.

Since then Congress has tried several times to change the Constitution by amending it in order to stop flag burners.

Last week, the House passed an anti-desecration amendment proposal as it has done five times before. It garnered more than a two-thirds majority even over the cool-headed logic of representatives such as Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. who said, “If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents.”

As before, it faces a dubious future in the Senate. Although both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans and it is they who tend to support such restrictions of our civil liberties, the moderate Republicans in the Senate, along with most of the Democrats, are likely to prevent passage.

And even if it did make it all the way through Congress, it would most certainly die in the state ratification process. There is very little likelihood that 75 percent of the states would vote to restrict our freedoms that much.

Burning the American flag is a despicable act. Especially to those who have been in the armed services or who have family members who serve, the desecration of the flag is a major slap in the face.

But unlike a physical slap, burning a flag does not constitute battery. It is very similar to name-calling. And, in general, though it is a sign of immaturity, name-calling is protected by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has determined that the Freedom of Speech clause applies to other types of expression, not just verbal speech. It applies to the written word and to symbolic acts such as protesting and, yes, burning the flag.

In fact, it is absolutely imperative that in this country that values freedom above all else, its citizens must have the right to protest by burning the flag. It is our unique constitution that gives us the right to burn it.

Amending that constitution to take away that right would make it less unique. It would put us on the same level as China and North Korea, countries that do not tolerate anti-government protests.

Some House members understand that. But, apparently, the majority does not.


Anonymous said...

You say, "The Supreme Court has determined that the Freedom of Speech clause applies to other types of expression, not just verbal speech. It applies to the written word and to symbolic acts such as protesting and, yes, burning the flag."

That cannot be true or at least should not be true because, right of freedom of expression of speech in the said or written word applies ONLY to the word and nothing else. The reason is because I cannot change you or your identity by speaking for or against you. You still remain you. As such since there is really no defamation or fame by the written or said word and so we have the right of freedom of expression of speech. But any right of freedom of expression of act does not pertain to that, otherwise you'd also have to agree that if I in my anger harm another bodily because I had the right of expressing myself, then I should not be held accountable. Since I should be held accountable as only right of freedom of speech gives one the right to write or say anything freely, therefore, burning any flag constitutes a crime as a flag represents freedom and the right of act of burning a flag, is not free, we don't have that right.

Jerry Wilson said...
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Jerry Wilson said...

Expression resulting in harm is not legal and should not be, because of the harm. So your logic breaks down because speech that results in harm is also not protected. For example, you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater. Burning a flag causes no one any physical harm and should therefore be protected as free expression.

Anonymous said...

True Jerry, when you say that, 'speech expressed can also result in harm and hurting someone is wrong.' But you must consider the fact that good will always accompany bad. And where expression in speech is concerned, harm or bad compared to the good done is minimal. Therefore, since it's more imperative that people be free to express their views, no matter how strong, biased, unbiased, or right or wrong they be, for TRUTH must PREVAIL so there is no chaos and people can live a happy, peaceful and satisfactory life, it becomes important that right of freedom of expression of speech have no conditions attached, or truth will never come forward. Also, no one can undergo much harm because of the expressed WORD, as the written word you can choose to ignore reading it and the said word you can choose to move away from it or not acknowledge it. The only exception if any would be perhaps where the case is between an adult and a child. As such, where the environment is adult only, there should be total freedom of right of expression of speech so no one is scared of exposing or expressing anything through speech.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to add that behind any action verbal or actual, the emotion and intent is always a determinatory factor. As such, where, some old, dusty, wragged flag was lying around and someone burns it, it was just a piece of cloth. But where a person burns a flag to mock, provoke or abuse, it is wrong. I said earlier that it's a crime but I don't think so. The reason is because we need rules, regulations and laws to maintain peace and prosperity. But life is not all about peace and prosperity, life is about freedom and to be free. As such laws should be limited or choices are there no more. Where there is choice, that's where freedom lies. I'd say that we should have laws only regarding the everyday stuff and not for exceptions, or life would not be FREE anymore. So, where burning a flag is concerned, there should be no laws. It doesn't mean that if one burns a flag out of mockery, it is not wrong, it is wrong, but one should not be held accountable for that. It does not mean any extension to that and getting serious must be overlooked.

Anonymous said...

Where I said above that laws should be there only regarding the everyday stuff and not the exception, I meant that we should have laws only where we need them positively and no more as too many laws restrict freedom. I do get myself into a hole sometimes don't I?