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House Looks to Approve Constitutional Amendment Banning Burning an American Flag
AP, via TBO.com ^ | Jun 3, 2003 | By Jesse J. Holland

Posted on 06/03/2003 2:34:40 PM PDT by greydog

WASHINGTON (AP) - In what Democrats called an annual GOP "rite of spring," the Republican-controlled House on Tuesday prepared for a fifth time in eight years to pass legislation to authorize changing the Constitution to criminalize flag burning.

The one-line change to the Constitution - "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States" - is likely to approved by the House.

The vote is planned as a pair of holidays approach - Flag Day next Saturday and Independence Day in July. Senate passage is less likely.

Burning an American flag shows disrespect for America, and the majority of the American people approve of legally protecting Old Glory, supporters said. "If we allow its defacement, we allow our country's gradual decline," said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

But many opponents say the legislation would limit free speech rights.

"The whole purpose of the underlying constitutional amendment is to stifle political expression that we find offensive," said Rep. Robert Scott, D-N.C. "While I agree that we should respect the flag, I do not think it is appropriate to use the criminal code to enforce our views on those who disagree with us."

It is unlikely that the GOP-controlled Senate will take up the constitutional amendment this year, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the bill's Senate supporters. The Senate has never passed the legislation under Republican or Democratic control.

"It's always an uphill battle but we're hoping we can get it done," Hatch said. "Maybe not this year, but at least probably next year."

The constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate and approval by three-fourths of state legislatures.

The Bush administration supports the legislation, the White House said.

Lawmakers have debated the flag amendment almost annually since a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 1989 saying flag-burning was a protected free speech right. That ruling overturned a 1968 federal statue and flag protection laws in 48 states.

In 1990, Congress passed another law protecting the flag, but the Supreme Court that year, in another 5-4 ruling, struck it down as unconstitutional.

Since then, the House has approved flag amendments in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001, all by more than 300 votes. The Senate, in votes in 1995 and 2000, came up with only 63 votes, four short of the two-thirds majority needed.

The House's new members haven't had chance to weigh in on the issue, said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

"We think they ought to have that opportunity because it's an important piece of legislation that makes a very strong statement about what our flag means to us and to the people of the United States," DeLay said Tuesday.

Opponents of the legislation, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called the vote a Republican "rite of spring" public relations ploy.

"The calendar tells us that June 14 is Flag Day and of course there's July 4th," Nadler said. "Members need to send out a press release extolling a need to protect the flag, as if the flag was in need of protection by Congress."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: constitution; flagburning; oldglory
Anybody that would support this measure somehow reminds me of Jimmy Swaggert.

As repulsive as the act of burning the flag is, it's still a political expression and banning it is the same as banning 30-rd clips to me.

1 posted on 06/03/2003 2:34:41 PM PDT by greydog
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To: greydog
This is one issue that separates the men from the emotion- and feelings-driven boys and girls (and fascists).

We don't need no stinkin' flag burning ban.

2 posted on 06/03/2003 2:37:55 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible)
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To: newgeezer
what an enormous waste of time.
3 posted on 06/03/2003 2:38:40 PM PDT by Huck
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To: greydog
Gee, all the serious problems in the world must be behind us if Congress has time for this sort of nonsense.
4 posted on 06/03/2003 2:38:41 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help support terrorism.)
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To: newgeezer
I am opposed to messing around with the Constitution for an issue like this. Why not allow our enemies to show themselves?
5 posted on 06/03/2003 2:40:41 PM PDT by justshutupandtakeit (RATS will use any means to denigrate George Bush's Victory.)
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To: greydog
There is a property-rights side as well: Who is the government to tell me whether or not I can burn something that belongs to me?
6 posted on 06/03/2003 2:40:52 PM PDT by Thane_Banquo
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To: greydog
"The whole purpose of the underlying constitutional amendment prohibition on cross burning is to stifle political expression that we find offensive," said Rep. Robert Scott, D-N.C KKK Byrd. "While I agree that we should respect the flag black people, I do not think it is appropriate to use the criminal code to enforce our views on those who disagree with us (the KKK)."
7 posted on 06/03/2003 2:41:14 PM PDT by zonan
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To: Huck
As much as I loathe being on the same side as Nadler and his ilk, they're right (hopefully for all the wrong reasons).
8 posted on 06/03/2003 2:42:22 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible)
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To: Thane_Banquo
There is a property-rights side as well: Who is the government to tell me whether or not I can burn something that belongs to me?

Bingo.

9 posted on 06/03/2003 2:42:54 PM PDT by Senator Pardek
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To: greydog
I'm with you on this one. If they can ban flag burning, they can criminalize your thoughts. Oh, wait a minute, they already did.
10 posted on 06/03/2003 2:43:02 PM PDT by Sam Cree (Democrats are herd animals)
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To: greydog
All I can say is...

GIVE EM AN INCH AND THEY WILL TAKE A THOUSAND MILES.


11 posted on 06/03/2003 2:44:23 PM PDT by unixfox (Close the borders, problems solved!)
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To: justshutupandtakeit
Why not allow our enemies to show themselves?

Exactly. I've always loved that about this country. It's good to know which are the Michael Moores among us.

12 posted on 06/03/2003 2:45:13 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible)
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To: greydog
I used to agree with a ban on flag burning -- and was upset with my Senator, Mitch McConnell, for opposing it. Then I heard him once explain it -- "if we are going to put this prohibition in the Constitution, should we also put an amendment in the Constitution banning Roseanne Barr from being able to sing the National Anthem? Where would it stop?" After hearing that, I changed my mind -- not that flag burning is right, but that changing the Constitution is not a practical way of solving the problem.
13 posted on 06/03/2003 2:49:00 PM PDT by Republican Wildcat
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To: greydog
Besides, if and/or when the SCOTUS allows the likes of Algore to recount votes as many times as it may take to produce the winning total -- 5-to-4 was cause enough for outrage, IMHO -- I want every opportunity to express my opinion of the state of our nation.
14 posted on 06/03/2003 2:51:29 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible)
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To: greydog
This is ridiculous. Just because I think some form of expression or speech is offensive, doesn't give me the right to ban it.
15 posted on 06/03/2003 2:52:07 PM PDT by Sparta (Tagline removed by moderator)
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To: greydog
If they really want to ban something through a Consitutional amendment, maybe they might consider stopping the slaughter of innocent pre-born children, instead of a silly flag burning ban.
16 posted on 06/03/2003 2:57:18 PM PDT by B Knotts
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To: greydog
I'm not sure that destroying a flag counts as freedom of expression. We do have laws against defacing both currency and buildings (graffiti), for instance.

BUT, even if it is a freedom of expression, specific examples such as flag burning don't belong in the Constitution. The Constitution defines our form of government and explicity and implicitly protects our freedoms. This document is not a criminal code and actions such as burning flags, defacing money, grafitti, theft, etc. are not important enough to be in it.

The courts can decide if flag burning falls under first ammendment rights. If so, let it be. If not, add it to the criminal code and deal with it there.

17 posted on 06/03/2003 3:03:37 PM PDT by EvilOverlord (Body armor goes well with ANY outfit)
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To: greydog
We would be better served if they would get rid of an amendment or two (popular election of Senators and Income Tax) rather than adding this one.

I'm not sure who they are trying to appeal to with this amendment.
18 posted on 06/03/2003 3:09:54 PM PDT by Arkinsaw
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To: EvilOverlord
Well, there's probably lots of criminal laws that are unconstitutional. IMO, flag burning would be one of them if it were passed.

However an amendment banning it is in direct conflict with the first amendment, IMO.
19 posted on 06/03/2003 3:10:48 PM PDT by Sam Cree (Democrats are herd animals)
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To: greydog
If you *really* want to stop public flag burning, cities could pass fire ordnances against it. . .
20 posted on 06/03/2003 3:16:51 PM PDT by sackofcatfood
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To: greydog
How many flag-burnings do we have these days? Not very many (unless you count the "proper" flag-burnings by which damaged U.S. flags are supposed to be disposed of).

How many flag-burnings will we have if this Constitutional Amendment passes? Thousands and thousands. Flag-burning will become the in-way to flout the law and protest whatever it is about the federal government that anyone happens to be protesting.

If this Constitutional Amendment passes, flag-burning will become the symbolic way of protesting the much greater destruction being visited upon our Constitution and our individual liberties.

If this Constitutional Amendment passes, I'll burn a flag myself, because it will no longer represent freedom's banner.

21 posted on 06/03/2003 3:25:25 PM PDT by dpwiener
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To: EvilOverlord
Missing the point here, I think. I am perfectly free to burn currency to fine ashes, the law prohibits defacing in such fasion as to make detection of counterfeiting difficult (See the www.wheresgeorge.com site). Graffiti involves another's property. I can paint the side of my building with anything I choose.

As long as the flag is my property, I do not file for insurance compensation following arson, and do not in the course of this burning endanger another person's property, I am legal. I cannnot envision myself doing this, find the act repugnant, but I have to admit it as political expression. I am not at all sure the writers of the first amendment envisioned naked young women frolicking with farm animals as protected speech, but I find I generally have to delete a few such messages every day from my e-mail in box. If freedom of speech is to have any meaning, it means I must watch, in sorrow, as others do such acts as burning a symbol dear to me.
22 posted on 06/03/2003 3:28:21 PM PDT by barkeep
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To: greydog
I agree that this is a silly approach. But I do not agree with the Supreme Court that anyone has the right to burn the flag as a form of free speech.

I would address this issue differently, however. I would limit the right of Federal District Courts to even hear such cases. Thus it would not go back to the Supreme Court. Most States could then elect to prosecute such cases under existing law. We do not need to adopt a Constitutional Amendment everytime the Supreme Court hands down a foolish or even a disasterous ruling.

This same approach would also work on abortion, State Legislative reapportionment, etc..

William Flax Return Of The Gods Web Site

23 posted on 06/03/2003 3:34:05 PM PDT by Ohioan
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To: greydog
Massive waste of time. I would burn the thing myself in the public square on the day this ever became law.
24 posted on 06/03/2003 3:36:37 PM PDT by VRWC_minion (Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and most are right)
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To: barkeep
Right you are.

The truly sad thing is that, apparently, what you wrote falls outside the realm of common sense.

25 posted on 06/03/2003 3:49:40 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible)
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To: Arkinsaw
I'm not sure who they are trying to appeal to with this amendment.

I thought it was fairly obvious. It makes a direct appeal to our effeminized, emotion-driven society. (See #2)

26 posted on 06/03/2003 3:53:22 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible)
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To: VRWC_minion
But if the government has the right to regulate when people can burn cigarettes, why can't they regulate whether or not you can burn a flag?

I'm sure fumes from flag burning are just as hazardous as cigarettes smoke.

Therefore, we should ban flag burning to protect the population from the horrors of second-hand flag smoke.

I'm sure you'll agree.

Trace
27 posted on 06/03/2003 4:00:14 PM PDT by Trace21230 (Ideal MOAB test site: Paris)
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To: Trace21230
I do agree. The government can regulate where its proper to burn things. We don't need an amendment to ban burning inside a building or on public property.
28 posted on 06/03/2003 4:17:41 PM PDT by VRWC_minion (Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and most are right)
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To: barkeep
I understand what you're saying.

I tried to make a better reply, but I can't seem to get the words right. Basically, don't trash the Constitution with ammendments that restrict our freedoms or with issues that should be codified elsewhere.

In your view, flag burning is free speech, and I don't entirely disagree. The meaning of speech is so blurry these days. Generally, I guess it's better to have more freedoms than fewer, so I guess we should leave things as they are and simply wonder about those who would demonstrate their hatred by burning the flag.
29 posted on 06/03/2003 5:02:39 PM PDT by EvilOverlord (Body armor goes well with ANY outfit)
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To: greydog
Is there any way to stop this annual idiocy?
30 posted on 06/03/2003 5:04:04 PM PDT by breakem
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To: breakem
Is there any way to stop this annual idiocy?

Vote Democrat, but that's a cure worse than the disease.

31 posted on 06/03/2003 6:34:34 PM PDT by NovemberCharlie (Resident of Gabon, 1991-1992)
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To: greydog
I would sooner burn my home than the flag. That having been said, anyone that votes to make it illegal will never, ever get my vote.
32 posted on 06/03/2003 6:38:15 PM PDT by ShadowDancer
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To: greydog
I don't like American flag burners and I don't like American flag burning bans.
33 posted on 06/03/2003 6:41:44 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: NovemberCharlie; breakem
breakem:
Is there any way to stop this annual idiocy?
NovemberCharlie:
Vote Democrat, but that's a cure worse than the disease.

      Actually, I think that Republican primary elections are the most important elections.  Better choices made at that time might bring a real cure.

      But a flag burning amendment is another cure worse than the disease.
34 posted on 06/03/2003 6:49:37 PM PDT by Celtman
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To: Celtman
Seems like republicans are more likely to vote for this type of crap tham dems. Dems can't get behind it when it doesn't take any money from us.
35 posted on 06/03/2003 9:42:11 PM PDT by breakem
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To: breakem
Seems like republicans are more likely to vote for this type of crap tham dems. Dems can't get behind it when it doesn't take any money from us.

      Yep.  And we need to remember which Republicans voted for what the next time the primaries come around.
36 posted on 06/03/2003 10:50:29 PM PDT by Celtman
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