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Flag burning flap June 27, 2006

Posted by dr. gonzo in Politics.
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In typical election year fashion the GOP is pushing, yet again, the Flag Desecration Amendment. (S. J. Res. 12 & H. J. Res. 10).

The Senate convenes today at 9:45 a.m. and will “thereafter resume consideration of S. J. Res. 12, the Flag Protection Amendment.” GOP Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah was quoted in today’s Washington Post: “Government exists because of the people. . . . Yet for too long, some unelected judges have mistakenly concluded that it is the courts that have exclusive dominion over the Constitution.”

Hatch is obviously not a very smart man as the job of the courts is to interpret the law according to the Constitution but the “exclusive dominion” that Hatch claims the courts have wielded over the Constitution does not exist. Purely for the reason that the Constitution CAN BE amended, that’s the point of the amendment process. It exists so that the courts cannot exercise exclusive dominion.

In this case, the Supreme Court said in 1990 (U.S. vs. Eichman) that flag burning was a protected form of free speech by a 5 to 4 majority. This makes complete sense. In a society that would value its flag enough to consider making it illegal to desecrate, flag desecration makes a bold political statement. Much like burning an effigy does.

The last time this came up, six years ago, the amendment fell four votes shy of the needed 67 for a two-thirds majority in the Senate. It looks like this time promises to be even closer. Last week a count during debate showed that 66 Senators supported the amendment, though there is some question whether or not Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will have recovered from back surgery in time to vote, Rockefeller supports the amendment.

The House passed the amendment in June of last year If the amendment passes the Senate it will be sent on to the states for ratification. Three-fourths of the state’s legislatures (38) must approve the amendment for it to become part of the Consitution. The amendment can wait up to seven years for the state’s approval.

To outlaw such an act of free speech flies in the face of the entire spirit of what freedom and liberty mean in America. Aside from this amendment being against the spirit of the U.S. Constitution there are numerous reasons why the Flag Protection Amendment is useless.

Probably the foremost reason in my mind is that it’s only a symbol. A piece of cloth. Are we, as a nation, really that concerned about it? When is the last time you saw a flag being burned? While people in this country have attached a patriotic affection to the flag, (especially and more noticeably since 9/11), the flag is not necessary for people to know what America represents, or is supposed to represent. It’s just a piece of cloth.

It also seems to me that in today’s bitterly divided America that passing a Flag Protection Amendment might actually have an effect opposite of its intent. Like so many rebellious teenagers Americans might take the “if you tell me not to do it, then I am going to do it” philosophy toward flag burning.

Which brings me to my final point. This is partisan nonsense. Though 14 Democratic Senators are onboard the majority of the amendment’s supporters are Republican. With their party clearly in trouble this is just yet another example of election year pandering. If it’s not illegal immigration or gay marriage, then what? It must be flag burning.

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