Veterans Group Opposes Flag Constitutional Amendment; Joins ACLU In Call To Reject Censorship in the Constitution

July 26, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the adoption of a resolution by Veterans For Peace that opposes the proposed constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the flag. The Senate Judiciary Committee had recently approved this misguided measure that would write censorship into the U.S. Constitution.

“”In this heightened election season, we see so many politicians drape themselves in the flag without comprehending the freedoms it embodies,”” said Terri Ann Schroeder, and ACLU Legislative Analyst. “”One of those freedoms is the right to express oneself – no matter how controversial the message. The proposed amendment is a legal maze, ripe for misuse, misinterpretation and confusion and should be rejected.””

The “Flag Protection Amendment” (S.J. Res. 4) would amend the Constitution to give Congress the power to criminalize any “physical desecration” of the American flag. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected laws banning desecration of the flag; Congress has consistently rejected proposed constitutional amendments since 1990. The House had narrowly approved its version of the measure last year, and last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it on a mostly party-line vote of 11-7.

The amendment now goes to the full Senate, where it has already failed three times since first appearing on the Senate floor in the summer of 1990, and is expected to fail this time as well. The last time the Senate considered the flag desecration amendment in 2000, it failed by 4 votes. At that time, two Senators, including Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Richard Bryan of Nevada, switched their positions and joined with 35 of their colleagues to defeat it.

Opposition to the flag amendment is ideologically broad, with conservatives, moderates and progressives fearful of the implications for basic American freedoms if the amendment were ratified. And, although some prominent veterans groups have endorsed the amendment, a sizeable and growing number of veterans — of all generations and from all major military engagements of the past 90 years — have been vocal in their principled opposition to the bill.

Veterans For Peace is believed to become the first national veterans membership organization to take an official position against the measure. Their resolution was adopted with only one dissenting vote, and noted that the organization “”wishes to extend and preserve the freedoms for which its members served and fought in the U.S. Armed Services,”” and that “”promoting such an amendment as an “”honor”” to veterans does not honor our service.””

“”The adoption of this resolution shows that supporters of the amendment do not speak for all veterans,”” said Gary May, Chair of Veterans Defending the Bill of Rights. “”Veterans For Peace’s resolution affirms that its 4,200 members do not favor curtailing First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech in exchange for “”protecting”” the symbol of this freedom from “”desecration.””

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