ACLU Says House Approval of Flag Desecration Amendment is Loss for Freedom, Urges Senate to Stand Ground and Reject Measure Once Again

June 22, 2005 12:00 am

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Urge your Senator to Oppose the Flag Desecration Amendment!

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called the House’s approval of the “Flag Desecration Amendment” a loss for freedom and an unwarranted assault on the First Amendment. The proposal, which requires two-thirds of those voting and present to pass, was adopted by an eight-vote margin on a vote of 286 to 130. The amendment now heads to the Senate.

Members also rejected an amendment, offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) requiring the proposed amendment to be “consistent with the First Amendment.” That modest proposal was defeated on a vote of 129 to 279.

Nationwide, there is growing opposition to this proposal. The First Amendment Center issued a survey in which 63 percent of those polled said that the Constitution “should not be amended to prohibit burning or desecrating the American flag.” Veterans Defending the Bill of Rights and Veterans for Peace have also been vocal in their opposition. Notable veterans who have opposed the amendment include former Secretary of State and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin L. Powell, former Senator John Glenn, and former Reagan Defense Department official Lawrence J. Korb.

The following can be attributed to Terri Ann Schroeder, Senior Lobbyist with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Today’s vote was a victory not for the flag, but for lawmakers seeking cheap political points. The flag is a symbol, and today’s vote is an assault on the freedoms that it embodies. In a democracy, freedom means that we must tolerate all peaceful forms of expression, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel, or how much we disagree. Lawmakers cannot silence individuals just because they don’t agree with their message or how it is expressed.”

“Today’s vote was the closest that the House has had on this issue and signals a real shift in momentum against the Flag Amendment and in favor of the First Amendment. The last time it was considered, it passed on a vote of 300 to 125. This means we saw a net gain of eight votes for freedom of expression. We especially applaud those members who changed their position on the issue, and those freshman members who took a stand to protect the First Amendment with their first votes on this issue. We hope the Senate will follow their lead.”

“Unfortunately, many House members supported this misguided proposal with the false sense that the Senate will stop it. Now the Senate must respect the First Amendment and reject this attempt to muzzle dissent. Senators must stand their ground, as they have time and time again, and reject this assault on the Constitution.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Flag Desecration Amendment, go to:

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