Major General Patrick H. Brady
Chairman of the Board, The Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc.
My name is Pat Brady, On behalf of the Citizens Flag Alliance; I thank you for hearing us.
We realize that there are good and great Americans on both sides of this issue, and some who think it is hokey, a waste of time. It would be hokey -- if our fuss were about flag burners or flag burning itself.
No matter how emotionally it affects most people, flag burning is a petty act, surely done to attract attention, to attack our country, our traditions and patriotism - but petty none the less.
So I want to make it clear from the beginning that our primary concern is not flag burners, they are with us always -- along with others who hate America.
Our concern is the Constitution and those who have amended the Constitution, without the approval of the people, by inserting flag burning in the Bill of Rights: and others who would deny the people the right to decide this issue.
This struggle for our flag has been long and fatiguing but we are energized in this effort by our contract with Patriotism, the oath we took to protect and defend our Constitution, an oath that defines patriotism.
All Americans take this same oath when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
And that is the bottom line - by defending the right of the people to protect the flag, we are defending the Constitution. The Supreme Court made a mistake by calling flag burning speech -- and it is the duty of every American to correct any error by our government.
Flag desecration is not speech and it desecrates our Constitution to say so. A review of the magnitude of great Americans who support this fact confirms it.
Baseball great Tommy Lasorda spoke to common sense, the dictionary and for 3 of 4 common Americans when he said: "speech is when you talk".
Justice Hugo Black spoke for every Chief Justice of the United States and Justices on 5 Supreme Courts in the last century when he said: "It passes my belief that anything in the Federal Constitution bars...making the deliberate burning of the American flag an offense."
U.S. Representative John Murtha spoke for 70% of the Congress when he said: "Burning and destruction of the flag is not speech. It is an act. An act that inflicts insult--insult that strikes at the very core of who we are as Americans and why so many of us fought--and many died--for this country."
General Norman Schwartzkopf spoke for our warriors when he said: "I regard the legal protection of our flag as an absolute necessity and a matter of critical importance to our nation."
We have heard from opponents of the flag amendment that our troops fight for the rights of flag burners. Who among them would stand before these men and women and tell them they are fighting and dying on the streets of Iraq so that their flag can be burned on the streets of America?
Add to this mighty armada, the Legislatures of all 50 states, and our President, and no reasonable person could deny that the Court made a mistake.
James Madison, the author of the First Amendment, also condemned flag burning, as did Thomas Jefferson.
The framers intended to protect political speech, -- the persuading power that moves people to the ballot box, and those elected to the will of the people. Flag burning is the persuading power of the mobs.
What the communist, Gregory Johnson said when he burned the flag, " Red, white and blue, we spit on you" may not add to the political dialogue, but it is certainly protected by our Constitution. What he did, burning our flag, is not.
We could go on but Walter Berns said it very well in Making Patriots when he wrote: "The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, not expression, and, whereas all speech may be expression of a sort, not all expression is speech, and there is good reason why the framers of the First Amendment protected the one and not the other."
The good reason is not difficult to see, the Constitution cannot pick and chose between actions that are "speech" and those that are not.
Then too, common sense tells us that if the framers meant expression, the protection of the press and assembly become redundant.
But legalized flag burning goes beyond desecration of our Constitution, it also desecrates our values as a nation. Burning the flag is wrong, but what it teaches is worse, it teaches that the outrageous conduct of a minority is more important than the will of the majority.
It teaches that our laws need not reflect our values; and it teaches disrespect for the values embedded in our Constitution as embodied by our flag.
Yet, despite the enormity of evidence, we believe it is important to address the concerns of those who are confused, or disagree on this issue, and we have done this in some detail.
First, those who have said flag burning is speech and should be protected by the Constitution, but say they want a statute to protect the flag. The Supreme Court has made it clear that they will not allow a flag protection statute -- it has been tried.
It is important to know that the flag amendment does not protect the flag; it simply takes control of the flag away from the judges and returns it to the people where they can protect it if they chose.
Those who want a flag protection law can have it simply by voting for the flag amendment.
But how can those who say flag desecration is speech -- support a law forbidding flag desecration?
Colin Powell is often quoted by those who support legalized flag burning when he said: "I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants." Powell completely misses the point. Our goal is not to hammer miscreants who desecrate the flag; it is to hammer miscreants on the courts who desecrate the Constitution by calling flag burning "speech". If we do not do so we violate our oath to protect the Constitution and will soon have no shield of democracy.
To those who say the flag amendment would amend the Bill of Rights, we ask, if the Supreme Court in 1989 had voted to protect the flag, would they then have amended the Bill of Rights?
To those who have difficulty defining the American flag and express concern over prosecuting people who burn bikinis embroidered with the flag or toilet paper marked with the flag, we ask if they would put toilet paper or a bikini on the coffin of a veteran, or their own coffin.
For over 200 years we had laws defining flag desecration and our courts had no problem defining a flag. Any 5th grader knows the difference between a flag and a bikini.
To those who say the flag is precious to them but oppose protection, we ask if they have anything that they love or that is precious to them -- which they would not protect. Is there any other precious symbol in America that is not protected?
Pat Boone said that was like saying I love my mother but it is OK to bat her around.
Some distrust the will of the majority -- even fear a tyranny of the majority - they worry that the majority may exercise their will on a more virtuous minority.
To them we ask if the minority on the Court, who voted to protect the flag was more virtuous than the majority who voted for flag burners.
Or if the minority that voted for their opponent was more virtuous than the majority that voted for them.
Some have actually said that since dictators protect their flag, protecting our flag aligns us with dictators.
We wonder how any American can compare Old Glory, designed by the father of our country and protected according to the will of a free people, to the hammer and sickle, or swastika, protected according to the will of a dictator.
Jefferson and Madison believed our flag should be protected, does that align them with Stalin or Hitler?
Some are concerned with the number of efforts to amend the Constitution. Why? Why is there no concern when the Courts amend the Constitution? They do it frequently and illegally.
Why does the majority count only when it wears black robes and not when it wears working clothes?
Look what the majority on courts has done with pornography, with prayer, with the 10 Commandments, with the Pledge, with the Boy Scouts and with marriage.
There have been over 11,000 attempts to amend the Constitution and only 27 have succeeded. The people take this responsibility very seriously.
An amendment that addresses the Bill of Rights could start a great debate and awaken the people to what is being done to their Constitution.
Once the people are aware, they will be outraged and they will act. We have seen their outrage after the Super Bowl, and their impact on the moral midgets in the media.
And we saw the people's outrage in California. They fired their governor and that sent a message to all politicians.
We need to send a message to the courts.
The flag amendment will energize the people and could help stop the slippery slope of constitutional desecrations.
The Constitution is too important to be left to the Courts and so is the flag. They both belong to the people and it is time for this body to let the people decide.
If that flag is precious enough to cover the coffins of our dead warriors, it is precious enough to be protected.