Latest Push for Constitutional Amendment to Ban Flag Desecration Met with Opposition by Broad Spectrum of Americans

February 24, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, February 24, 1999

WASHINGTON — The reintroduction of a constitutional amendment by members of the House of Representatives to prohibit “desecration” of the flag was met today with opposition by a broad spectrum of Americans.

Opponents of the flag amendment include veterans, constitutional scholars, former Reagan administration officials and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Those who favor the proposed amendment say they do so in honor of the flag. But in creating an exception to the First Amendment — something that has never happened in our nation’s history — they would destroy what millions of Americans have died to defend,” said Marvin Stenhammar, a former Paratrooper, Special Forces “Green Beret” and Special Operations Soldier who served in Beirut, Panama and Desert Storm.

Terri Schroeder, a legislative analyst for the ACLU, agreed. “In criminalizing a symbolic act such as flag burning, Congress would do irreparable damage to our right to free speech and undermine the very principles for which the flag stands.”

The ACLU vowed to mobilize its resources to defeat this amendment, including activating its grassroots network and drawing people to its online site, that allows people to instantly fax their representatives urging them to vote against the flag amendment.

“Opposition to the flag amendment is neither Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, patriots versus non-patriots. Opponents of the amendment fall across the ideological spectrum,” Schroeder said.

Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members, has consistently opposed similar censorship measures. Dr. Roger Pilon, a former senior Reagan Administration official and director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, Keith Kreul, former National Commander of the American Legion and a Korean war vet, and leaders of the clergy are all united in their opposition to the “flag desecration” amendment.

As Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote in 1989: “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”

The ACLU called on Congress to show strong leadership and preserve, once again, our nation’s most cherished emblem — the U.S. Constitution.

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