tommyedison

Flag Burning

70 posts in this topic

As much as I hate the people who desecrate the flag of the USA, I still support their right to do it. However things indicate that flag burning could be made unconstitutional. Even the Supreme Court won't be able to do anything if this bill is passed.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/20...htm?POE=NEWISVA

Your thoughts?

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Even the Supreme Court won't be able to do anything if this bill is passed.
One thought is that the bill also has to actually be approved by 2/3 of the states, which is a little harder to do. I don't understand why anyone would ever think that such an amendment somehow can't be gotten around by the Supreme Court. All you have to do is create a suitably restricted legal definition of "physical desecration", and then the First Amendment allows everything else.

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One thought is that the bill also has to actually be approved by 2/3 of the states, which is a little harder to do. I don't understand why anyone would ever think that such an amendment somehow can't be gotten around by the Supreme Court. All you have to do is create a suitably restricted legal definition of "physical desecration", and then the First Amendment allows everything else.

Actually, the required proportion is 3/4 of the states. Perhaps you meant to say that it still has to be approved by 2/3 of the Senate (it has only passed the House so far)? I have read that prior to the Supreme Court's 1989 ruling that flag desecration was a from of free speech, 48 states had flag-protection laws that outlawed such "physical desecration" and that all 50 states endorse this proposed amendment. So I doubt the 3/4 requirement will be a major obstacle. It's really up to the Senate, now.

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Actually, the required proportion is 3/4 of the states.  Perhaps you meant to say that it still has to be approved by 2/3 of the Senate (it has only passed the House so far)? I have read that prior to the Supreme Court's 1989 ruling that flag desecration was a from of free speech, 48 states had flag-protection laws that outlawed such "physical desecration" and that all 50 states endorse this proposed amendment.  So I doubt the 3/4 requirement will be a major obstacle.  It's really up to the Senate, now.

I'd like to point out an ambiguity in the sentence beginning with "I have read that...". The last clause "...all 50 states endorse..." should not have been a part of that sentence. It should have been conjoined with the following sentence "So I doubt..." and say:

All 50 states endorse this proposed amendment; so I doubt the 3/4 requirement will be a major obstacle.

Otherwise, it could be taken to mean that before the 1989 ruling, all 50 states endorsed the bill.

There's also a minor spelling error: "...flag desecration was a form of free speech...".

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As much as I hate the people who desecrate the flag of the USA, I still support their right to do it. However things indicate that flag burning could be made unconstitutional. Even the Supreme Court won't be able to do anything if this bill is passed.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/20...htm?POE=NEWISVA

Your thoughts?

My thoughts? I wonder why these people are spending their time on such a thing when there are more pressing matters that require their attention.

I'm not surprised that they are attempting to further delimit the definition of freedom of expression. They already passed a law explicitly censoring political speech under the rubric of campaign finance reform, the president signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it, and there was no outcry whatsoever by the citizenry! At this moment, the bureaucrats are following a court order to regulate political speech on the internet. It's open season on free speech of any kind.

I suppose the proposed amendment does give them a symbol to hide behind after debauching the first amendment. They're big on image these days, and it matters little to them that they're emptying the image of its meaning.

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I suppose the proposed amendment does give them a symbol to hide behind after debauching the first amendment.  They're big on image these days, and it matters little to them that they're emptying the image of its meaning.

Oops, I lost my last sentence.

Does anyone find it surprising that after they censor political speech, one of the first freedoms symbolized by the flag, that they are making a law that will FORCE a SHOW of respect for the flag?

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When it is said that it is required to be passed by 3/4 of the states, does that mean 3/4 of the states' legislatures or 3/4 of the states on a ballot initiative that everyone registered to vote can vote on?

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So which side are you on, free speech - or America? B)

I don't understand what you mean. How can being for free speech and being for America possibly be alternatives in an either/or question?

What are you saying if you say you are on the side of America if you don't mean that you support the founding principles that govern America? The American flag is but a symbol that represents those principles laid out by our Founding Fathers, principles which led to the definition of "inalienable rights", among which are life, liberty, property, and happiness. The right of free speech grows naturally from these more fundamental rights. The First Amendment begins with the words, "Congress shall make no law..." abridging the free expression of ideas, because it is essential to the maintenance of all the other freedoms. How else is the reasoning man to persuade? As Miss Rand said, it is reason or a gun.

It is ironic, and obscene, that the showy "patriots" in Congress propose to add an amendment--not a law, but a principle governing law--that abrogates one of the founding principles spelled out in the very first admendment to the constitution.

These days, every branch of the government is busy striping the meaning behind the symbol that is the flag. They destroy it with laws and rulings that say that this or that political speech will be allowed, not as a right, but by government decree (and subject the the whims of whomever happens to be in office at the moment); that the state has the right to steal your property if it thinks it can get more tax money from Ikea; by every law they pass on the premise that, because someone might possibly do something bad in the future, the actions of the innocent must be shackled in the present; by demanding omniscience while tying the hands of every CEO;... The list grows by the day, and I submit that these laws breach the integrity of the founding principles that give the flag its meaning, and as such, are a far worse form of desecration than the disrespect of mere physical abuse. America can survive the burning of her flag; can she survive--as America--the destruction of her ideals?

Eran, I grew up on military bases in foreign countries, and for most of my childhood, the flag was America to me. My father and my husband died while in service to the flag. I have served in uniform under the flag myself. The flag is raised on the mast of my boat every day out of respect for the Americans now under arms and in harms way, fighting to protect the ideas that make America the glory that she is. I resent it when my government spends time thoughtlessly undermining the meaning of the flag by putting a gag in my mouth, and then and proposing to force respect for that which they render meaningless by that force.

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....I resent it when my government spends time thoughtlessly undermining the meaning of the flag by putting a gag in my mouth, and then and proposing to force respect for that which they render meaningless by that force.

Please add:

And they are doing it because it plays well in Peoria.

Sorta looses its punch as an add on, huh. I don't know why I keep losing the last sentence of my posts.

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I don't understand what you mean. How can being for free speech and being for America possibly be alternatives in an either/or question?

What I mean is, that the people who are trying to make it unconstitutional to burn the American flag pretend that there can be a choice of this kind involved.

If you object to limiting free speech, you must be some kind of America hater - allowing the flag to be burned and desecrated. It's a version of what they were trying to do in Israel with pornography a while back: if you oppose banning pornographic TV channels - you must be some kind of pervert.

In Israel they failed. In America they wouldn't be able to try that with pornography, so they chose something even MORE controversial: burning the American flag. Make no mistake - their goal is not protecting the honor of the flag, but testing the ground for more serious violations of free speech.

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What I mean is, that the people who are trying to make it unconstitutional to burn the American flag pretend that there can be a choice of this kind involved.

Right, I like the way you presented the point, because it makes stark the contradiction.

If you object to limiting free speech, you must be some kind of America hater - allowing the flag to be burned and desecrated.

The one thing you rarely hear is that this is a property rights issue, not a free speech issue. If I own a flag, I have the right to dispose of it as I wish.

In America they wouldn't be able to try that with pornography, so they chose something even MORE controversial: burning the American flag. Make no mistake - their goal is not protecting the honor of the flag, but testing the ground for more serious violations of free speech.

I'm sure you're right, but I'd like to know who "they" are. I think the vast majority of people supporting this think it is a good idea, and have no agenda beyond that. Who are the people who are thinking "Okay, I want to go after pornography, but that's too hard right now, so I'll go after free speech via a flag burning amendment, which will lay the ground work for more limits on speech." ?

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The one thing you rarely hear is that this is a property rights issue, not a free speech issue.  If I own a flag, I have the right to dispose of it as I wish.

That's a non-essential here, because burning the flag in your own home is not going to be a problem anyway, and is not the target of the law. The law targets those who burn the American flag to make a point. And BTW - while today it is inconceivable for us to want to do this, it might be very justifiable in the future, if America comes to represent tyranny rather than freedom. A flag is, after all, just a piece of cloth, and the meaning behind it can change dramatically in our lifetimes.

I'm sure you're right, but I'd like to know who "they" are.  I think the vast majority of people supporting this think it is a good idea, and have no agenda beyond that.  Who are the people who are thinking "Okay, I want to go after pornography, but that's too hard right now, so I'll go after free speech via a flag burning amendment, which will lay the ground work for more limits on speech." ?

Who profits from it being forbidden to burn the American flag? The people who support patriotism detached from the ideology of freedom. The religious right. I'm sure if you do some journalistic research you can reveal the real motive behind this. No honest freedom-loving patriot would come up with this absurdly contradictory idea of a constitutional ammendment forbidding flag-burning.

And you have to be a damn fool to support it, as well.

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That's a non-essential here, because burning the flag in your own home is not going to be a problem anyway, and is not the target of the law.

I understand that. However, it is essential, in that this is the way you defend your right to burn a flag.

The law targets those who burn the American flag to make a point.

That is probably the reason, but note the text of the amendment:

The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.

It doesn't mention protesting. The idea I get from this is the flag is sacred, so you'd better not harm it.

And BTW - while today it is inconceivable for us to want to do this, it might be very justifiable in the future, if America comes to represent tyranny rather than freedom. A flag is, after all, just a piece of cloth, and the meaning behind it can change dramatically in our lifetimes.

No argument there.

Who profits from it being forbidden to burn the American flag? The people who support patriotism detached from the ideology of freedom.  The religious right. I'm sure if you do some journalistic research you can reveal the real motive behind this.

The religious right, yes, but I'd like to know specifically which intellectuals are putting this forward with the kind of forethought you mentioned. I'll do as you say and see what intellectuals in support of it argue.

What often happens is that a person has a particular ideology, and in the natural following of that ideology, they end up supporting things like flag burning amendments and anti-pornography measures. The forethought is not often that great.

  No honest freedom-loving patriot would come up with this absurdly contradictory idea of a constitutional ammendment forbidding flag-burning.

I'm sometimes amazed at how concrete bound people can be.

And you have to be a damn fool to support it, as well.

Clearly.

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What I mean is, that the people who are trying to make it unconstitutional to burn the American flag pretend that there can be a choice of this kind involved.

If you object to limiting free speech, you must be some kind of America hater - allowing the flag to be burned and desecrated. It's a version of what they were trying to do in Israel with pornography a while back: if you oppose banning pornographic TV channels - you must be some kind of pervert.

In Israel they failed. In America they wouldn't be able to try that with pornography, so they chose something even MORE controversial: burning the American flag. Make no mistake - their goal is not protecting the honor of the flag, but testing the ground for more serious violations of free speech.

So we are on the same page. I wondered how you could say such a thing. Next time, please let me know you are being sarcastic. I have little energy to spare and that post cost me today's ration. I am very passionate about what is happening to my country. Or could you tell? B)

As for the government getting a foot in the door to further abrogate free speech: They put a whole leg in the door and shoved hard when they passed McCain-Feingold. The president signed it and the Supreme Court upheld it. The court subsequently ordered the election commission to write regulations delimiting political speech on the internet. Those who would gag us have all the legal precedent they require. That it was done with little protest from our vaunted fourth estate or the citizenry, told them all they needed to know about any further actions in that direction.

The issue of the flag is small potatoes compared to McCain-Feingold, but doesn't it sound patriotic? For the citizens who are tired of hearing nothing but negatives about its country, and is sick to death of attempts to make us ashamed of ourselves, it seems like just the thing. It's a political gimme to make the politicians look good to the voters. The voters who allowed them to pass McCain-Feingold without a peep won't be making any connections between flag burning and their constitutional right to speech uncensured by the government.

Of course, the only people who will stand against this amendment will be the same ones who pushed for McCain-Feingold. For once, when they say that it interfers with our basic civil rights, however, they'll be right. This whole thing is full of irony.

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No honest freedom-loving patriot would come up with this absurdly contradictory idea of a constitutional ammendment forbidding flag-burning.

And you have to be a damn fool to support it, as well.

Permit me to play devil's advocate here. Granted a person should be free to dispose of his property as he sees fit. His right to do so, however, is subject to his not violating other's rights in the process. No one has an unqualified right to do whatever he wants in a public place. There are, or should be, proper laws that delimit or regulate what is permissible as a public demonstration. In a public place it is proper for people not to be subjected to particularly offensive material without their consent. For instance, we have previously discussed laws forbidding the open display of pornography in a public place, or laws that require signs be posted warning people in advance of viewing an open display of pornography in private places open to the public. Could not one argue that the desecration of our flag, the symbol of our country and our culture, is so offensive to the ordinary person that he should not be subjected unwillingly to viewing such an act? Could not the same standards of the grossly offensive be applied to desecration of the symbol of our country, as is applied to pornography?

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I'm sometimes amazed at how concrete bound people can be. 

True, but I don't think a concrete bound person could originate this. Is that a huge problem right now, do people in the hundreds desecrate the American flag like they used to in the 60s?

No. A concrete bound person might have suggested it then, not now. It takes a principled enemy of freedom to be silent then, but try to pass it now - when it's fairly non-controvertial that burning the American flag is wrong.

An interesting quote from the London Times:

Countries that already outlaw burning the national flag include China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Cuba.

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So we are on the same page.  I wondered how you could say such a thing.  Next time, please let me know you are being sarcastic.  I have little energy to spare and that post cost me today's ration.

I actually looked for a sarcastic smiley... which one do you think fits best?

:)

:)

B)

:)

:)

[To save you the trouble of answering, I was being sarcastic again. Sorry, couldn't resist. :D]

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I actually looked for a sarcastic smiley... which one do you think fits best?

:)

:D

:)

B)

:)

[To save you the trouble of answering, I was being sarcastic again. Sorry, couldn't resist. :D]

You may not go to the end of the line and stand behind my friends and family who delight in watching my knee-jerk when they push certain buttons. I'm so easily had it's disgusting. :)

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Permit me to play devil's advocate here. Granted a person should be free to dispose of his property as he sees fit. His right to do so, however, is subject to his not violating other's rights in the process. No one has an unqualified right to do whatever he wants in a public place. There are, or should be, proper laws that delimit or regulate what is permissible as a public demonstration. In a public place it is proper for people not to be subjected to particularly offensive material without their consent. For instance, we have previously discussed laws forbidding the open display of pornography in a public place, or laws that require signs be posted warning people in advance of viewing an open display of pornography in private places open to the public. Could not one argue that the desecration of our flag, the symbol of our country and our culture, is so offensive to the ordinary person that he should not be subjected unwillingly to viewing such an act? Could not the same standards of the grossly offensive be applied to desecration of the symbol of our country, as is applied to pornography?

No. Because the only "offensive" quality of it is ideological, and we cannot ban offensive ideologies. Going by that logic, any public demonstration of your ideas and values that "disturbs" others can and should be banned. Like wearing a T-Shirt with an Ayn Rand quote, or the Falun-Gong's demonstrations on 5th avenue against the cruelty of China (usually a man sitting tied to a chair wearing a shirt stained with red paint, to look like he's been tortured, or something like that).

Besides, the suggested amendment doesn't even limit itself to public displays - it covers private displays as well, such as the burning of the flag in a rock concert. Or even a flag burning concert where everyone pays to see the flag being burned.

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You may not go to the end of the line and stand behind my friends and family who delight in watching my knee-jerk when they push certain buttons.  I'm so easily had it's disgusting.  B)

That should read, "You may NOW go....

Geez, I'm having a hard time today.

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Burning an American flag that you own wouldn't be about free speech, it would be about destroying your own property. In some contexts, I recall in fact that it's only the "approved" way of disposing of an old tattered flag!

I think that Stephen makes a good point in comparing the act of maliciously burning a flag to other public displays that are illegal because they are grossly inappropriate in a civilized setting. That is arguable and I can think of answers either way. One argument against banning such a display is that anybody doing so in a malicious manner would provide useful information to his neighbors about his character.

However, one thing seems sure, a Constitutional amendment against it is all a bunch of political BS that takes attention away from about a million other things of far great importance. I cannot remember the last time that I even heard about or saw an American flag being burned in America. I myself have never seen such a thing and I doubt that I know anyone, anywhere on Earth much less in America, who has. It is such a complete non-issue in reality that there must be some other motivation behind it.

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No. Because the only "offensive" quality of it is ideological, and we cannot ban offensive ideologies.

But we do ban offensive ideologies, ones that call for the violent overthrow of the government.

Going by that logic, any public demonstration of your ideas and values that "disturbs" others can and should be banned.

But, then, using your logic you would also have to object to the specific forbidding and control over the display of pornography.

Besides, the suggested amendment doesn't even limit itself to public displays ...

Yes, I understand that. But I was limiting my devil's advocacy to such public displays.

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But we do ban offensive ideologies, ones that call for the violent overthrow of the government.

Speaking just to this point, I think that to some extent this is similar to banning yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater - it's the force that matters. Though difficult to separate, it's specifically the advocacy of violent overthrow that's banned, not necessarily the ideas that lead to that advocacy. For example, advocacy of instituting communism via peaceful means, such as via the vote, is not and should not be banned, despite the evil of those ideas. If someone were to attempt to advocate instituting Objectivism by violent overthrow (putting aside for the moment the drastic contradiction in that), that advocacy should likewise be banned, but Objectivism's ideas themselves should not be.

Also, there's a reason that it's advocacy of violent governmental overthrow that's banned. The government of the U.S., in principle, is a proper government (let's not get into how it fails in current practice to act properly). The U.S. government is, again in principle, an implementation of a proper political system. Since only a proper political system protects individual rights, to attempt overthrow such a system is to attack those rights at the root - it's a core violation of those rights. The government exists to prevent and/or to fight exactly the things represented by the attempt to overthrow it.

So it's not really the ideologies that are banned, but the violence and the overthrowing.

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But we do ban offensive ideologies, ones that call for the violent overthrow of the government.

We don't ban any ideologies whatsoever. We only ban institutions such as the communist party, or Al Qaeda. The ideologies themselves are legal as long as they don't cross the line into action.

But, then, using your logic you would also have to object to the specific forbidding and control over the display of pornography.

I didn't say that. I don't think that not wanting to be exposed to pornography while walking down the street is an ideological thing. You don't even have to be against pornography to feel that it is improperly forced on you in a public context.

Pornography, together with extreme acts of cruelty towards living creatures, and a few other "grossly disturbing" sights should have a unique status - they shock, distract, or disgust with little relation to one's philosophy, ideology, or even character. They strike at the core of our human cognition, demanding our attention in a way that consists a violation of our rights.

This is NOT the same as burning a flag, or shouting anti-American slogans, or walking for Capitalism. This second group shocks others only because of the ideas of the perpetrator. America is, or was, the country where ideas as such are never outlawed.

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