FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the Senate for rejecting a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban flag “desecration.” The amendment, S.J. Res. 12, fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for passage.
“The Senate came close to torching our constitution, but luckily it came through unscathed,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We applaud those brave Senators who stood up for the First Amendment and rejected this damaging and needless amendment.
“America prides itself on tolerance and acceptance; it is essential that we not amend our founding document to allow censorship, even when the speech in question is reprehensible,” Fredrickson added. “Today the First Amendment and, indeed, the entire Bill of Rights remain untarnished and more meaningful than ever. It is our hope that the Senate will now move on to the real problems this country faces.”
The ACLU noted that flag burning remains an isolated and rare occurrence, even with the resurgence in political protest prompted by the war in Iraq. The vote was projected to be the closest it has ever been in the Senate – and it was with the margin of defeat of only one vote. Proponents hoped that election year pressures would swing the vote their way.
Opposition to the amendment has always been ideologically and politically diverse. Former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell said in a 1999 letter, “The First Amendment exists to insure that freedom of speech and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree, but also that which we find outrageous.” In addition to Powell, former Senator John Glenn and former Reagan Defense Department official Lawrence J. Korb had spoken out against the proposal. Veterans Defending the Bill of Rights, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Common Sense had also been vocal in their opposition.
“Today is a victory for the First Amendment and all Americans who cherish the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights,” said Terri Ann Schroeder, ACLU Senior Lobbyist. “We are thankful, that with the help of thousands of veterans from around the country that the Constitution has survived yet another round of election year politicking.
“The constitution has somehow survived once again, unfettered and unstained by the political powers that be and that is reason to celebrate,” Schroeder added. “Allowing a ban on flag desecration would have compromised the very freedoms that our Founding Fathers struggled so hard to attain. By wisely voting down this amendment, the Senate has done its duty as protectors of our Constitution.”
For more on the ACLU's concerns with the Flag Desecration Amendment, go to: www.aclu.org/flag