Frequently asked questions
What will the amendment say?
"The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
Would you vote for a person just because he supports this amendment?
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.
Aren't you trying to legislate patriotism?
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.
So who runs this group?
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.
Will you be targeting those members of Congress who are opposed to an amendment?
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.
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.
If this is such a good idea, why has Congress voted it down in the past?
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.
Can anyone join the Citizens Flag Alliance?
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.
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.
Don't we have a duty in society to protect the speech that we hate?
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 preserve. I think what your so-called citizens group is doing is despicable and I am opposed to it.
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.
Could the states define the word "desecration" and "flag" any way they want to?
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.
Isn't flag burning a very powerful means of expressing a message?
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.
Will passing this amendment lead to other types of laws that will take away our freedoms?
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.
If you want to protect the flag, would you say it's okay to burn a copy of the 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.
What can you say to veterans who say they fought for freedom and not for a piece of cloth?
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.