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The Latest News

Flag Burning News Archive

From around the world. . .
Here are some recent news articles in PDF format.  Enjoy.
"Little Patriots," The Standard, (China's Business Newspaper ) Oct 9, 2004

And an Oct 2004 editorial in Pravda, of all things. This used to be the mouthpiece of the Soviet government. Now it's being critical of the US Governments efforts to stamp out civil liberties. (Here's a version with fewer ads)

Joe Conason's Journal (excerpt from Oct 15, 2002)

. . . (South Carolina Rep. Lindsey ) Graham has resuscitated a phony patriotic issue -- the constitutional amendment to prevent flag desecration. He wants people in South Carolina to believe that if he is elected, that will somehow stop the occasional loony who wants to burn the flag. (Very few people notice these profane gestures unless posturing clowns like Graham call attention to them.) But anyone who checks the Senate tally on the last occasion when this amendment was defeated in 2000 will see that installing Graham in the place of retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond will do nothing to improve the chances that this act of constitutional vandalism will pass. (The tally is here, though you have to scroll down to click onto voting records from the 106th Congress.) The proponents are still four votes short of the two-thirds margin they would need to revive this ill-considered legislation -- and only two of the 37 no votes are even remotely in danger of losing their elections to the 108th Congress. Graham can count votes and he knows this "issue" is going nowhere. Like his military record, it's just boob-bait.

Man Ordered to Stay Away From Flags
Oct 9, 2001
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A man accused of burning an American flag was ordered to stay away from U.S. flags if he is released from jail.

David H. Stout, 49, remained in jail Tuesday night, a day after Judge Wayne Sturtevant lowered his bond to $2,000 from $9,000. Stout has been in jail since his Sept. 30 arrest on misdemeanor charges of flag desecration and resisting law enforcement.

Indiana is among 48 states that still have laws against flag desecration, despite repeated rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that flag-burning is an exercise of constitutionally protected free speech.

Stout is accused of resisting police officers called to investigate a complaint that he was burning a flag in an alley behind his home.

Defense attorney David Thomas has asked for a jury trial, but a trial date has not been set.

House Subcommittee Approves Flag Amendment;
ACLU Says Patriotism Can Not Be Forced
Thursday, May 24, 2001
WASHINGTON -- A House subcommittee today approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit "desecration" of the American flag. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union joined with veterans and reiterated its strong disapproval of what it calls a misguided and counter-productive initiative.

"Patriotism and respect are earned through the substance and values of a nation, not by its physical symbols," said Marvin Johnson, a Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. "By making the American flag untouchable, Congress would be sending the message that approval of our nation is an obligation not a choice."

The amendment was reintroduced last month and went to markup today in the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. It has been introduced in various forms over the last 12 years, but in recent years its margin of support in both the House and Senate have steadily dropped. During the 106th Congress, for example, two Senators who had previously supported the amendment -- Robert Byrd, D-WV, and Richard Bryan, D-NV -- changed their position and voted against the measure.

In recent years, thousands of veterans have contacted the ACLU to express their indignation to the amendment and to counter proponents' argument that all American veterans are united in this quest to prohibit physical mistreatment of the flag. A number of very high profile veterans have released statements to dispel this myth, including former Senator John Glenn and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

But perhaps it was Gary May, a highly decorated Marine who lost both his legs during combat in Vietnam, who said it best in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year:

"Freedom is what makes the United States of America strong and great -- it is what has kept our democracy strong for more than 200 years," said May, who serves as the Chairman of Veterans Defending the Bill of Rights, a coalition of veterans who oppose the proposed flag amendment. "The honor veterans like me feel is not in the flag itself, but in the principles the flag stands for and in the people who have defended them."

"China, Cuba, countries where the only freedoms are those bestowed on a whim by the state - these countries jail their kids for burning the flag," Johnson said. "We do not. America was created around dissent. Our freedom is founded upon the right to make known our opinion without threat of government interdiction - Old Glory is the ultimate, tangible expression of this national belief."

More information about the history of the flag amendment and the veterans who oppose it can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/congress/flag.html

Senate turns down flag amendment
By Cheryl Arvidson

WASHINGTON -- The Senate today narrowly defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban flag desecration, but sponsors vowed to continue their fight in the next Congress and beyond until the provision is approved and added to the Constitution.

Although the flag amendment received 63 affirmative votes, a constitutional amendment requires a super-majority of two-thirds, or 67 votes if all 100 senators are present and voting. The 63 votes were the same as in 1995, the last time the Senate considered the measure; 36 senators opposed it that year, with one not voting. The flag amendment received only 58 votes when it was voted on in 1990.

"The flag amendment reflects the will of the people, and it will pass the Senate," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the amendment, told the Senate shortly before the vote. "It may not pass the Senate today, but it will pass the Senate (eventually).  This trend (of more affirmative votes) will continue until we get the 67 needed for passage."

The 63-to-37 Senate vote marks the end of the flag debate for this session of Congress. The House had approved the flag-desecration amendment last year by a wide margin, and the House also had voted in favor of the proposal in 1995 and in 1997. But both chambers must approve a proposed amendment during the same term of Congress before it can be sent to the states for ratification. So supporters now must begin their campaign to pass an amendment anew next January when the 107th Congress convenes.

Had the amendment passed the Senate, it would have needed the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures before it could be added to the Constitution. That ratification was considered likely because 49 legislatures already have passed resolutions calling on Congress to approve such an amendment.

excerpt from yesterday's Senate speach by the principal sponsor of the proposed Flag Protection Amendment, Orrin Hatch of Utah:


I must ask these Senators: Do you believe in flag protection or not? Or are you just playing political games?... I would never accuse anybody in this body of doing something as denigrating as playing politics....

Some of my colleagues contend our country has achieved greatness in its two centuries of existence because they say we value tolerance over all else. Yes, we are tolerant of everything that is rotten and we are intolerant of many things that are good. They say if we pass this constitutional amendment and then adopt legislation prohibiting flag desecration, we will become Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Cuba, and a host of other repressive and dictatorial regimes that do ban desecration of their respective flags. They even suggest we will become like South Africa during apartheid or like Nazi Germany if we protect our flag. This argument is not only specious, it is absolutely ridiculous. It is insulting.

I believe passage and ratification of this amendment is ultimately inevitable.... The votes in the past few years demonstrate that momentum--as well as the fulfillment of duty--is on our side. In 1989, 51 Senators voted for the amendment.... In 1990, there were 58 votes in favor. In 1995, 63 Senators voted for the amendment.... The trend of support will continue until we get the 67 needed to pass this resolution and send the constitutional amendment to the States for ratification. I personally will not stop fighting for the flag amendment until it passes the Senate with the requisite two-thirds vote....

I find that a sense of elitism is creeping into the Senate. In fact, I don't fear it, I know that is the case.  Frankly, I get a little tired of the elitism in this country. It is throughout our country, and it is elitism that is allowingthe savaging of our values to occur today in this country. It is the elite who are basically upholding things that force us to be tolerant, as they say, of some of the very offensive acts that occur in our society. They say we should be tolerant, not to do anything about people who defecate on our flag or urinate on our flag or burn our flag with contempt or trample on it. They don't seem to see any real problem with that, although they condemn it vociferously without doing one
doggone thing about changing this culture and letting the American people know we are going to stand for something....

We know we do not have the votes today, but we are not going to stop until this amendment is approved. Sooner or later we will get enough people here who feel strongly enough about this to get the constitutional amendment passed. I venture to say, if we could pass this constitutional amendment, at least 38 States--and, frankly, I think all 50 States would ratify this amendment--I believe the people out there would ratify this amendment and we would have more than 80 percent in the end, and people would feel very good about it.... If it does not happen today, don't worry, we will be back because we are not going to quit until we win on this amendment. When we do, it will be a great thing for this country.

By Cheryl Arvidson
The Freedom Forum Online

WASHINGTON -- Calling it a "wrong-headed response to a crisis that does not exist," five Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have called on their colleagues to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the burning of the American flag.As the Senate prepares to debate the flag-desecration amendment, possibly later this week, a copy of the minority report of the Senate Judiciary Committee obtained by The Freedom Forum Online stressed that the American flag, while beloved, is only a symbol of the freedoms and liberties that citizens hold precious.

"It would be the cruelest irony if, in a misguided effort to honor the symbol of that freedom, we were to undermine the most precious of our freedoms, the freedoms of the First Amendment," Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Herb Kohl, D-Wis., Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said in the minority report."This amendment is a wrong-headed response to a crisis that does not exist. It would be an unprecedented limitation on the freedom Americans enjoy under the First Amendment and would do nothing to bolster respect for the flag."

The minority report also revealed that one of the country's most prominent military officers, retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, has weighed in against the proposal.

Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War, expressed his opposition to the flag amendment in a letter dated May 18, 1999, to Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the panel."We are rightfully outraged when anyone attacks or desecrates our flag," Powell wrote. "Few Americans do such things, and when they do, they are subject to the rightful condemnation of their fellow citizens. They may be destroying a piece of cloth, but they do no damage to our system of freedom which tolerates such desecration. ... I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be flying proudly long after they have slunk away."

The five senators used the views of Powell and a number of other war veterans, including several current and former senators, to challenge the assertion of proponents that the flag-burning amendment is supported by most veterans. That perception has been bolstered by the active involvement of the American Legion and other veterans groups in the push for the passage of the constitutional amendment.

"But while the majority would like to portray the views of veterans as monolithic, many outstanding veterans oppose the amendment," the report said. "They do so for a number of reasons. Above all, they believe they fought for the freedoms and principles that make this country great, not just the symbols of those freedoms. To weaken the nation's freedoms in order to protect a particular symbol would trivialize and minimize their service."

The flag amendment, which passed the House by a wide margin last year, requires the approval of two-thirds of the Senate -- 67 "yes" votes to pass and be forwarded to the states for ratification. If three-fifths of the state legislatures accepted the amendment, it would become part of the Constitution, marking the first time in the nation's more than 200-year history when the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights were restricted. Nearly all 50 state legislatures have expressed advance approval of such an amendment.

Although the Senate vote will be close, opponents of the flag amendment expect the total to fall two to three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed. The final vote is expected next Tuesday, March 28, when the American Legion is meeting in Washington for its annual convention.

The minority report noted that James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, intended that the amendment process be used only in extraordinary circumstances, but that in recent years, his view has been buried under a flurry of proposed constitutional changes. Indeed, the minority said, more than 50 proposed amendments have been introduced in the 106th Congress. Since the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, was adopted more than 200 years ago, more than 11,000 amendments have been proposed but only 17 ratified, the senators said.

The restrictive quality of the flag-burning amendment should give special pause to lawmakers, the minority report said, because it would restrict a form of political expression heretofore recognized as protected speech under the First Amendment.

"We should observe special caution in approaching limits on the First Amendment," the report said. "This unprecedented use of the Constitution of the United States to limit rather than expand the liberties of ordinary Americans defies the long established principle that the Constitution is a limitation on government and not on individuals."The report also said flag burning was quite rare, noting that the Congressional Research Service uncovered only 43 incidents between January 1995 and January 1999, most of which would be subject to existing laws dealing with such crimes as trespass, theft, vandalism, breach of peace or arson.

Even the Citizens Flag Alliance, the umbrella group funded by the American Legion to coordinate support for the flag-burning amendment, turned up only 74 potential incidents of flag desecration, the report said, and most of those also were linked to other behavior that violates existing laws.

"Burning a flag, even one's own flag, will not shield a violent or disorderly protester from arrest," the report said. "The First Amendment protects speech, expressive conduct, peaceful demonstration. It is not a sanctuary for thieves, vandals or hooligans."

Indeed, the minority report said, some evidence suggests that efforts to make flag-burning illegal might prompt more incidents because "outlawing flag burning in a highly publicized way, or attempting to do so, tends to assure flag burners of the very attention they crave, lending national visibility to their crackpot causes and offensive behavior."

"If we want to stop people from burning the flag, the most effective way would be to stop daring them to do it," the minority report said. "Passage of the proposed amendment -- and the ensuing ratification debates --would do just the opposite."

Warren S. Apel