Amendment likely would create more flag burning

Posted: Monday, June 09, 2003

For the fifth time in eight years, the U.S. House has passed an amendment to the Constitution to criminalize burning of the American flag. The proposal routinely has faltered in the Senate.

Supporters mean well. Perhaps no other American symbol in- spires patriotic sentiments more than the flag. Seeing anyone burn a flag in disrespect understandably makes many Americans angry and resentful.

But outlawing flag burning would further limit the ability to express political beliefs without government persecution, which is a cherished freedom.

Anyone who burns a flag that is someone else's property is subject to prosecution under laws protecting property. People do have the right to act foolishly with their own property, however.

Flag burning has been a hot topic among lawmakers since a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 1989 declaring it was free speech.

Disrespect for the national symbol is not as popular as it was on college campuses in the 1960s, except in some foreign countries. Banning it conceivably would result in more people doing it for the media attention.

Florida Times Union

Jacksonville, Fla.

June 7

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