House Committee Approves Flag Amendment

May 26, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, May 26, 1999

WASHINGTON — Congress continued its push to amend the Bill of Rights as a House committee today adopted the “Flag Desecration Constitutional Amendment.”

“Even supporters of this constitutional amendment admit that flag ‘desecration’ occurs only a handful of times a year,” said Terri Schroeder, a legislative analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Rather than focusing their limited time on the countless problems they campaigned to fix, Congress has once again chosen to take the path of symbol over substance.”

The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure (HJ Res 33) on a voice vote, clearing the last hurdle required before a vote by the full House.

The constitutional amendment would allow the prosecution of protestors, artists, and others who “desecrate” the American flag. The vague term “desecration” could encompass a broad range of actions, said the American Civil Liberties Union, including flying one’s own American flag upside down.

The House vote came just a few weeks after Senate hearings and votes on the amendment. Both the House and Senate have heard from numerous American war heroes who want Congress to know that the Constitution should not be amended in their names. Former Senator John Glenn, a veteran of the Korean War, testified before the Senate.

“It would be a hollow victory indeed if we preserved the symbol of our freedoms by chipping away at those fundamental freedoms themselves,” Glenn said. “Let the flag fully represent all the freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights, not a partial, watered-down version.”

The ACLU’s Schroeder concurred. “This constitutional amendment is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem,” she said. “Most of the ‘desecrations’ chronicled by the amendment’s proponents are already punishable under existing laws. There is absolutely no reason to weaken our fundamental First Amendment protections for the handful of remaining acts.”

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