Sunday, June 26, 2005

The First Amendment

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a proposed Consititutional Amendment making it a crime to burn the American flag.

There is a problem though -- guidelines from the American Legion and the current Flag Code (Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1) state the following:
Question:
How are unserviceable flags destroyed?

Answer:
The Flag Code suggests that, "when a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning."
(emphasis added)

Link to: American Legion | The Flag | Frequently Asked Questions
Following this policy, the American Legion and Boy Scouts burn thousands of flags each year. So it's not so much burning the flag that is the problem, but why you burn a flag that's the problem.

Supporters of the proposed amendment claim that this is not an issue of free speech as covered by the First Amendment of the Constitution. But the effect of the flag burning amendment would be to make it a crime depending on what is on the mind of whomever is burning the flag (especially for those supposedly "hippy anti-american" types). The act of burning a flag is not a crime, but the motive or reason for burning it becomes a crime. That is where the Amendment violates the freedom of expression.

Do you really want the U.S. Congress and/or the President deciding that doing something is a crime when it's done for certain reasons and not for others? Do you want our country to arrest people for having "anti-American" thoughts and motives? For the Conservatives, would you want John Kerry, or Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton (gasp!) deciding which motives and thoughts are acceptable and which are not? Well, I feel the same way about Bush, Cheney and Rove deciding for me.

It occurs to me that a country that loves it's freedom so much that it is willing to let the very symbol of that freedom be burned in maintaining that freedom is pretty similar to a God that loves people so much that God allows his only son to be crucified so that the people might be saved.

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