In the previous post, I made mention of the language of the sacred. If the government decrees that the flag is sacred, does that violate the separation of church and state?
As may be, it’s actually going to come to a vote in the Senate. We may only be able to sit and watch our government amend the First Amendment to restrict political freedom of expression.
So this seems to be the overall plan – get as much power away from the judicial branch as possible by handing it to Congress and the executive branch. Where Congress isn’t pliant enough, then disempower Congress, and focus on executive power.
The US Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the First Amendment to the Constitution protected Americans’ right to desecrate the flag as a means of free expression. Interesting – the majority opinion was joined by Scalia.
Back in 1997, Dr. Roger Pilon, Ph.D., J.D broke with colleagues at the libertarian/conservative think tank Cato Institute in his testimony before the Subcommittee on the Judiciary of the House. It’s worth a read – here’s my favorite part:
Sir Winston Churchill captured well that essential feature of our system when he observed in 1945 that “the United States is a land of free speech. Nowhere is speech freer–not even [in England], where we sedulously cultivate it even in its most repulsive forms.” In so observing, Churchill was merely echoing thoughts attributed to Voltaire, that he may disapprove of what you say but would defend to the death your right to say it, and the ironic question of Benjamin Franklin: “Abuses of the freedom of speech ought to be repressed; but to whom are we to commit the power of doing it?”
When so many for so long have understood the principles at issue today, how can this Congress so lightly abandon those principles? It is said by some that the flag is a special case, a unique symbol. That claim may be true, but it does not go to the principle of the matter: in a free society, individuals have a right to express themselves, even in offensive ways. Once we bar such expression, however, Franklin’s question will immediately be upon us. What is more, we will soon find that the flag is not unique, that the Bible and much else will next be in line for special protection.
It is said also that the flag is special because men have fought and died for it. Let me suggest in response that men have fought and died not for the flag but for the principles it represents. People give their lives for principles, not for symbols. When we dishonor those principles, to protect their symbol, we dishonor the men who died to preserve them. That is not a business this Congress should be about. We owe it to those men, men who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to resist the pressures of the moment so that we may preserve the principles of the ages.
After all, free expression and the right to dissent are among the core principles that the American flag is meant to represent. What greater defacement of the flag can there be than to shift its meaning into something that makes a mockery of American values and rights? Freedom of expression is one of the the truest tests of our dedication to the principles that our flag is supposed to represent.
Three countries ban flag-burning – Quick! Who are they?