"The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
The American people have said they would be less likely to vote for someone who opposed the amendment, but it is not the purpose of the CFA to tell people how to vote. While we think it is important for citizens to know where their members stand, we don't advocate a vote for or against anyone.
Absolutely not. What we are trying to do is protect the flag from physical acts of desecration by restoring the right of citizens to pass laws against it. And there is widespread support for this movement, as demonstrated by the fact that 50 state legislatures have voted in favor of the amendment.
The Citizens Flag Alliance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation incorporated in Virginia. It has a board of directors drawn from member organizations and serves as a big, red, white and blue tent where all of our supporters can gather as equals to achieve our purpose.
Absolutely not. The Citizens Flag Alliance is not advocating the defeat or election of anyone, regardless of his or her stand on this issue. No one favors flag desecration, not even those in Congress who oppose the amendment. However, we do want Americans to know how their members of Congress voted so they can make an informed decision at election time.
The Citizens Flag Alliance is a broad-based, non-partisan organization that has come together for the single purpose of securing flag protection. We are not concerned about ideologies because this issue belongs to no particular group; it is an American issue. Our membership is diverse and we think that shows the intensity of feelings that Americans have about the issue. Already more than 140 organizations have joined. If you want to join you can do so, or get information by calling 1-317-630-1384.
I have a great deal of trouble with your group telling me that I could go to jail if I take my own money and buy a flag and then burn it. What gives you the right to tell me I can't?
The American people have the right to govern themselves and to pass laws that restrict behavior that is considered dangerous or harmful to our nation. We believe that the flag of the United States is such a pervasive and important symbol that the very purchase of it carries with it the responsibility to treat it with some degree of respect. And many others believe as we do.
A simple majority of both houses of congress voted in favor of the amendment in 1990 and the House of Representatives passed the amendment in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005, each time by a super-majority of two-thirds. Today, the Citizens Flag Alliance has teams working in every state to raise public awareness of this issue and to encourage citizens to contact their members of Congress and express their desire for a constitutional amendment. It has failed by the narrowest margin (one vote) in the Senate, because it became politicized.
How can you justify taking away someone's right to express himself no matter how distasteful you might find his method of doing it?
There have always been limits on free speech, and they are familiar to us all. In our society we are always weighing one value against another, one priority against another, and one freedom against another. The Citizens Flag Alliance believes that society's interest in protection of the flag substantially outweighs an individual's interest in desecrating it.
Let's say that someone draws a picture of a flag and then stands on the steps of a government building and burns it. Would that be illegal under the amendment you want?
Absolutely not. What the Citizens Flag Alliance wants to do is restore to the Congress the right to pass flag-protection legislation. We all have a good idea of what a flag really is. Ask any six year old what a flag is, and he or she can tell you. We are talking about a flag as commonly understood. Neither the Congress nor the courts have had a problem defining a flag in the past, and we don't think this definition will baffle them now. We are talking about protecting the red, white and blue banner that flies freely from a staff or is hung reverently from a support.
How can you be so arrogant as to ignore a ruling by the highest court in the land? I believe that they ruled correctly and I am against this ill-conceived effort of yours.
What the Citizens Flag Alliance is trying to do is not without precedent. The Supreme Court ruled that slavery was constitutional as well as poll taxes and denying women the right to vote. The people disagreed and passed constitutional amendments to change their rulings. It's important to remember that our Constitution does not begin with "we the Supreme Court" or "we the Congress." It begins with "We the people," and, in this case the vast majority of people want this Supreme Court decision reversed.
I understand that former Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Medal of Honor recipient, is opposed to this amendment. If a genuine American hero is against this, why should anyone take you seriously?
Among the many members of the Citizens Flag Alliance is the Military Order of the Purple Heart and numerous Medal of Honor recipients. These men and women are also American heroes and they support what the Citizens Flag Alliance is doing. That's why we are trying to find balance between the views of those, like Bob Kerrey, who are concerned about this process and those like our members who sincerely want the flag protected.
We have no problem with that. What we have a problem with is the physical act of desecrating the flag. Say whatever you will, but don't defile the flag of our nation.
I am a World War II veteran, who received two Purple Hearts and the Silver Star. I didn't fight all over the Pacific to have some organization in my own country run a campaign to take away the very rights I fought for and so many of my friends died to pre
Many veterans are members of the Citizens Flag Alliance and they, like you, feel strongly about preserving the rights guaranteed under our Constitution. Those rights are not endangered by this campaign to secure protection for our flag. In fact, members of the Citizens Flag Alliance are exercising the rights you and they fought for by "petitioning the government for a redress of grievances" as is guaranteed to them by the First Amendment. What the Citizens Flag Alliance is seeking will not take away anyone's right of free speech.
No, that would be left to the Congress. And if Congress defined either unreasonably, the case would end up in court and common sense and precedent would prevail.
So is threatening the President or joking that you have a bomb in an airport, but we don't allow every powerful means of expression in our society. Let's not romanticize the issue too much. In our society you will still have the right to say anything you want to about the flag or our government, you will just be restricted from physically harming the flag with impunity. Most people do not think that this places a burden on anyone's ability to communicate whatsoever.
Isn't the 1989 Supreme Court decision a reaffirmation of freedom, and that our tolerance of criticism is a sign and source of our strength?
That's what one Justice said in support of the decision. But another said it was the duty of society to legislate against conduct that is evil and profoundly offensive to the majority of the people. Both are noble thoughts, but the point is that the vast majority of the people disagree with the one and agree with the other. And now it is in the hands of the people to decide if they want to protect their flag, or if they want it to be legal to desecrate it. This is an action being sought by the people, and driven by the people.
First of all, this amendment is about restoring a freedom to the people, not about taking one away. The Supreme Court took away the people's freedom to protect their flag, a freedom they enjoyed and exercised for 100 years. Second, if the people don't have the power to exercise their freedom to amend the Constitution, then the Constitution will be of no value and will lose its moral authority over the governed. This campaign is an exercise in democracy as established in our Constitution.
While there are people who would object to you burning the Constitution or the Bible or numerous other symbols and artifacts in our society, this campaign is about the flag. It's about the flag because there is, simply, nothing else like the flag in our society. You can't draw apt analogies to flag burning because there is no other act that arouses the same sense of outrage. The government belongs to the people and was created by the people and for the people.
Freedom does not stretch out in boundless infinity. There have always been limits on every freedom. The freedom that they fought for is outlined in our Constitution, and we are exercising that freedom through open, public and honest debate on an issue of great importance to many Americans. As in every debate, eventually the verdict is decided by a fair vote. That is what we are seeking here. Honorable people can disagree sincerely, but we must allow the process to work as it was intended to work.
As long as a person doesn't actually take a genuine flag and fashion it into an article of clothing, there is no violation of any law generated by this amendment. While some people may find flag clothing inappropriate and lacking in taste, it would not be illegal under the proposed amendment.
This amendment would not restrict that unless physical desecration of the flag was involved, such as writing a slogan on an actual flag. While the use of flags in advertising is considered a violation of flag etiquette, it would not be illegal under a flag amendment.
That really isn't relevant because the United States is unlike any other country in the world. We are a nation born of diversity. We are not defined by our borders and we are not all alike. We come from many backgrounds and religions and races and political ideologies. And we debate our differences vigorously. Yet, despite our differences, the flag reminds us that what makes us Americans is that we all subscribe to a common credo based on equal justice, opportunity and freedom. Our flag represents all of the things that bind us together as a nation.
That simple question has caused more controversy about a pretty simple topic than almost any other. The Congress, which rarely agrees on anything, agreed in 1989 that the term "flag of the United States means any flag of the United States, or any part thereof, made of any substance, of any size, in a form that is commonly displayed." That makes it pretty clear that we aren't talking about ties with flags on them or birthday cakes with Stars and Stripes icing.
We should amend the Constitution every time the people successfully follow the procedure outlined in the Constitution. That's the law of the land. The process itself ensures that only those amendments of the utmost importance will survive the process. It is not up to individuals, or the media, or the bar association, or the ACLU to give permission to amend the Constitution. This is a right reserved for the people as they exercise popular sovereignty through their elected representatives at the national and state levels.
This is not about amending anything except the Constitution, and the amendment would return to the people a freedom the Supreme Court took away -- the freedom to protect our flag from acts of physical desecration. The Bill of Rights, we should remember, is not the sole compendium of our rights as citizens. In fact, the Bill of Rights is specifically aimed at the federal government and it spells out what it cannot do. Along with the Bill of Rights, the rest of the Constitution also enumerates rights, and among them is the people's right to amend the Constitution.
How do we know that any law will be fair and reasonable? We trust the common sense and good judgment of the American people and their elected representatives, and we have faith that the courts will act fairly. Our government is based on the consent of the governed. At this point in our history, we have proven that we the people are capable of governing ourselves quite adequately without having to resort to some supreme council to keep us on track. There is no doubt that the laws resulting from the amendment will be tested in court, and probably all the way to the Supreme Court.
In most states, flag desecration was a 3rd or 4th class misdemeanor, carrying a small fine. People were saying you cannot desecrate the flag with impunity. However, that's not the Citizens Flag Alliance's decision to make. Once the amendment passes, that's a decision that will be made by the people and their elected representatives, which is as it should be.
Some people have unfairly raised the specter of banishment of the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, and the possibility of cruel and unusual punishment, and so forth. This is malarkey. The 16th Amendment that created the income tax was worded in the same format as this amendment. People raised the same objections. To my knowledge, no one has yet been drawn and quartered for income tax evasion, nor have our people been subject to IRS agents routinely invading their homes in the dark of night looking for a second set of financial books.
Our founders provided a method for the people to change the laws that would govern them, and it is outlined in Article V. Regardless of what you or I may personally think of the merits of this issue, 50 state legislatures have petitioned Congress for a flag-protection amendment. That is unprecedented in our history. Our society would be facing a real problem if such an outpouring of public support for a constitutional amendment was somehow thwarted or ignored. We are a government of the people, and the people are exercising their rights as given to them in the Constitution.
Isn't it true that our founding fathers decided that even a majority of the people should not be allowed to censor anyone's speech or thought just because they don't like what is being said?
If you are going to evoke the thoughts of our founders, let's take a close look at the First Amendment. There is no mention of flag-burning in there. There is no mention of freedom of expression. It specifically says that freedom of speech and freedom of press are protected. If they had conceived of an "expression" angle, they would not have had to mention the spoken word and the written word. On the other hand, we acknowledge that there is legitimate need to protect various types of expression, up to a point. And we think flag desecration reaches that point.
This amendment does not punish flag burners nor does it infringe on anyone's rights. It says: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." It is an enabling amendment. It returns to the people and to Congress the power to pass flag protection laws if they want to. On the other hand, in most states prior to 1989, flag desecration was a third or fourth class misdemeanor carrying a small fine. The federal government provided for a fine up to $1000 and up to one year in prison.
I think we have enough government interference in our lives. Won't this amendment just give the government even more power?
Let's get the facts straight. In 1989, the U.S. Government took away the people's right to protect their flag from physical desecration, a right they had for more than 100 years. This campaign is about getting that right back. The government isn't working to obtain this constitutional amendment; it is the people who are working to have that freedom restored to them.
The Supreme Court decision left no other option by which the people can pass laws protecting their flag from physical desecration. Congress tried the Flag Protection Act of 1989 and it was ruled unconstitutional. Scholars have looked at all of the other options, and they all fail to pass muster. Simply put, the Constitution does not have the resources within it to allow the people to set aside the flag as a unique symbol deserving of protection. This amendment will put those resources into the Constitution.
Flag burning has never been widespread in our society, but when it did occur it was generally punishable. And that's the position of most Americans: if you are going to desecrate our flag, you shouldn't be able to do it with impunity. The Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision was divided into two basic camps.
The freedom to desecrate our nation's flag is not a fundamental freedom deeply rooted in the First Amendment. The First Amendment allows expression of any opinion or emotion, but it has never before been interpreted to allow any and all means of expressing those opinions or emotions. The proposed amendment will not curtail free speech in any way; it will provide the resources necessary in the Constitution so that we may place off limits the desecration of our nation's flag.
There is no historical precedent and scant legal precedent for such a bold and sweeping assertion. The flag is the symbol of our nation and it symbolizes what the people say it symbolizes, and the vast majority certainly don't think that includes the freedom to desecrate it. You will have a hard time convincing the average American that the right to desecrate the flag is a right deeply rooted in the First Amendment.
Of course, but within reason. The fact is that there are so many governmental restrictions on private property that, according to the Supreme Court, one can't even formulate a general rule about private property. For instance, you can own your automobile, but how you use it is strictly regulated. Most states even require that you have periodic safety inspections, pay property taxes on it, and wear a seatbelt when operating it. Same is true for privately owned firearms and controlled drugs.
In 1989 the Congress agreed on wording to define desecration, and they drew directly from the definition in Black's Law Dictionary, a common legal reference for the past century. Congress defined desecration as to "knowingly mutilate, deface, physically defile, burn, maintain on the floor or ground, or trample upon the flag of the United States." It provided an exception for disposal of worn flags. The key is that no one can unintentionally desecrate the flag. The word itself means that the actor intends to cast contempt on the object in question.
That argument doesn't stand up under scrutiny. If flag burning is prohibited, the argument goes, there will be more of it. Therefore, we should make it legal to prevent it. This argument fails in the light of real experience. The fact is, the more society tolerates, the worse behavior becomes. Permissiveness has the opposite effect. Part and parcel to this argument is that we should allow flag burning to show how much the flag means. In other words, in order to preserve, protect and promote the flag, we should condone destroying it.
Flag desecration is an action that most people find highly offensive and abusive. America will survive with or without a flag amendment. However, the vast majority of Americans believe that society's interest in protecting the flag substantially outweighs an individual's interest in desecrating it.
Absolutely not. We are not talking about regulating speech. We are talking about curtailing offensive conduct. Under the amendment, those who disagree with government would still have the right to criticize elected officials, the government or the flag itself, by word or in writing. During the 100 year span when flag desecration was illegal, no one's first amendment rights were in jeopardy and no one believed they were.
A Flag burning is not speech; it's despicable conduct, and the American people know the difference, even if the Supreme Court doesn't. More and more, the interpretation of our Constitution reflects the mindset of lawyers rather than the good, common sense of the American people. The Constitution belongs to the people and this campaign is about reclaiming it.
Our flag, which predates our Constitution, says "America," more than any other symbol does. America is a tapestry of diverse people, and the flag represents the values, traditions and aspirations that bind us together as a nation. It stands above the fray of day-to-day politics and petty differences of opinion. It unites us in times of national crisis, and the vast majority of the American people want it protected from acts of intentional, public desecration.