28 June 2006

Flag Burning

Congress's second recent attempt at a Constitutional amendment failed yesterday by one vote. The amendment, which the Associated Press reported on today, was an attempt to ban flag burning. I could talk all I wanted about this amendment, but a legislator has already said it better than I could:
"Our country's unique because our dissidents have a voice," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a World War II veteran who lost an arm in the war and was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

"While I take offense at disrespect to the flag," he said, "I nonetheless believe it is my continued duty as a veteran, as an American citizen, and as a United States senator to defend the constitutional right of protesters to use the flag in nonviolent speech."
I'm very thankful for people like Inouye who believe that pre-existing Constitutional amendments should trump new ones.

7 comments:

marshwiggle said...

non violent speech... And this is exactly why I don't have a problem with the amendment. You are free to speak/write whatever you want about the flag. Fire is not speech. There is guaranteed freedom of speech, not guaranteed freedom of expression.

luaphacim said...

But burning a flag does no actual violence to anyone. Literally, flag-burning is the combustion of a piece of textile. It is a reconfiguration of a physical symbol, and that, to me, is a speech act.

Even figuratively, flag-burning is only a statement of disagreement with a particular ideal or action. If we banned flag-burning, the next logical step would be to ban other "misuses" of the flag... its display upside down at anti-gay rallies, for instance. And the door would be open to other ways of regulating "American" symbols like the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, and so forth.

Evil Bender said...

How 'bout we ban people from hanging crosses in their homes, then? After all, the act of putting up a cross isn't "free speech" under marshwiggle's definition.

Or does freedom of speech only apply to things we say? What about writing? visual art? Sign language? etc.

marshwiggle said...

hmm.. EB seems to forget that cross hanging might fall under the free exercise of religion clause. Also, I'd note that the combustion of a physical textile has no relation to the spoken or written word.. surely an english major does not find burning and speaking synonomous. I respectfully submit that we're confusing "freedom of expression" with "freedom of speech" here.

Evil Bender said...

I respectfully submit that you should do a bit of reading on precendents involving freedom of speech. It does not apply exclusively to acts that require vocal chords.

marshwiggle said...

hmm. moving from the constitution to precedents.. I respectfully submit that you have just admitted that free speech (if in need of other precedents) is constitutionally limited to just speech. Now, if you'd like to argue precedents post constitution, we can. By this logic (and those precedents), burning a cross is no more hate speech than burning a flag, and should be just as protected.. However, we seem to have "hate speech" precedents that are unconstitutional if viewed in that light.
Personally, I prefer burning crosses and burning flags outlawed, but I support your free speech to say/write whatever you want.

Evil Bender said...

If you want to believe that the constitution should be limited to protecting expression only when verbalized, you can go ahead, but it doesn't make much sense.

And precedents clarify the constitution; that's their function. They don't contradict it, and they certainly aren't trying to add rights.

For the record, I don't like hate speech laws, in almost any situation. Cross burnings are illegal because they were used to make threats, which is not constitutionally protected, not because they're not "speech."