« Tories Ready To Try Again? | Main | Preparing The Next Obstructionist Target »
The House passed a Constitutional amendment that will guarantee Congress the power to regulate how the flag is treated, including the power to outlaw "desecration" of the American flag, on a fairly bipartisan vote. The measure now goes to the Senate, which has killed it in years past on a more partisan basis, but the Washington Post reports that may change this year:
A constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to ban flag burning passed the House yesterday, and congressional leaders said it has a strong chance to clear the Senate for the first time, sending it to the states for ratification.
The House has passed the measure four times before, but it has always fallen short of the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate. But several changes in the Senate shifted several votes to the bill's supporters, and a lobbyist who leads the opposition said the absence of one or two senators could mean that the measure would pass.
"There are too many scenarios where we lose," said Terri Ann Schroeder, senior lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. "We're very concerned." Schroeder counts 65 solid votes in favor of the amendment of the 67 needed for passage. "We still have a number of folks that have never voted, and we still have a potential problem if 100 members do not . . . vote," she said.
The issue has been a favorite of conservatives since a 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling in 1989 that protected flag desecration as free speech.
Normally, I would favor almost anything the ACLU opposes just as a guidepost to common sense. In this case, however, the proposal has two major flaws, both of which I believe are ultimately fatal to the intent of the amendment, which is to stop people from burning the flag at protests. And while I'll wind up on the side of the ACLU as far as this amendment goes, their approach to the subject comprises at least a major part of one of its flaws.
First, practically speaking, the amendment doesn't necessarily create a ban on flag desecration; it merely gives Congress the opening to do so to counter the Supreme Court's decision determining that desecration is political speech. Congress can then pass laws on a majority basis to enable and enforce a ban. However, questions about what constitutes a flag, what constitutes desecration, and how law enforcement should enforce it will dog Congress. It's easy to posture, but given the ability, I don't see this as a practical or pressing law-enforcement issue, especially when the terrorists are probably the least likely to out themselves by lighting up Old Glory in public -- at least not in the US.
Can it be done? Sure, but all that will wind up happening is that a lot of people will get hauled into court to get their hands slapped, and since it will be a federal crime, the cases will jam the federal courts. Instead of burning "real" flags, people will start burning paper representations. Will that fall under the ban, or does the flag have to be cloth to be desecrated?
Second, and in my mind more important, the push for this amendment comes from Congress' (correct) impulse to push back against an activist court that creates new rights and laws out of thin air. In this case, we have a court decision that made arson equivalent to political speech and untouchable by law, while a subsequent court ruled that actual political speech could be subject to prior restraint when conducted in conjunction with an election, thanks to the BCRA, John McCain, and Russ Feingold. The amendment in this case shouldn't be that narrow -- it should recognize that speech doesn't consist of anything else but the verbal or written publication of actual speech, not arson, nude dancing, or blowing up buildings, which is the logical extension of the 1989 decision. Everything else should be left to the Legislature to regulate.
In fact, the solution here isn't even an amendment. It is to nominate and confirm judges that not only will stop looking for emanations from penumbras that don't exist in the Constitution and will respect the division of powers instead of creating laws themselves. We need justices who understand that the so-called "living document" only means that it can be amended by the people when so desired, but otherwise means what it says. These ideas aren't radical, despite recent partisan mudflinging to the contrary.
The fact that two-thirds of the Senate appears to be ready to vote to approve this amendment shows a bipartisan recognition of the problem. Those who vote to approve this mistake should be held accountable for their inability to approve justices that would correct the actual problem of judicial activism and will reverse the most egregious examples of its implementation when the opportunities arise, starting with that 1989 decision that kicked this entire battle into high gear. Otherwise, what we will have will be hundreds of amendments addressing narrow issues that will create massive confusion and complications for legislatures and law-enforcement efforts. We will have the EU Constitution instead of the compact framework that has served us so well for the last two centuries.Sphere It View blog reactions
TrackBack URL for this entry is
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Addressing The Symptom And Not The Disease:
Tracked on June 23, 2005 7:31 AM
» Superhawk Defends Flag Burning? from Brainster's Blog
And what's more, I agree with him. But... I also think that beating up flag burners should be allowed under a "fighting words" type exception to assault laws. [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 7:47 AM
» Maybe a 300 page Constitution wouldn't have been so bad... from ThoughtsOnline
we would have been better served had the Founding Fathers NOT made the US Constitution so relatively brief. Just think of all the legal fights we could have avoided over the past 50 years or so had the drafters only been a tad more specific. [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 8:28 AM
Tracked on June 23, 2005 8:36 AM
» Not everything bad needs to be illegal... from LyfLines
Not that I want to see people burning the flag. It's infuriating, immature, childish, pointless, gutless, useless and foolish. As a rule. But damn it, the Constitution protects freedom of speech, specifically political speech, and burning an American... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 8:49 AM
» Flag Burning Amendment from Secure Liberty
I must admit, as a partiot, I would welcome a flag burning amendment, although I don't feel strongly about it. It seems that it has a chance to pass the Senate this year. A constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to ban flag burning passed ... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 8:49 AM
» Burning to Do the Wrong Thing from Fraternitas Vitae
The burning of the American flag is certainly a shameful act. As an act of political expression, it is purely ignorant: sorely lacking in respect for the values upon which America was founded, such as the very freedom of expression... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 10:32 AM
» Flag Amendment and Hate-Crime Laws from Townhall.com C-Log
I think approving a flag-burning amendment would put conservatives who hate the idea of the PC thought-police and hate crimes (and I hate them with the fire of a thousand La Shawn Barber posts!) in a rough position for arguing against them. "After all,... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 11:51 AM
» Whose flag is it? from rgcombs.blog-city.com
Once again, the House has determined that our most pressing legal problem is flag burning. The flag burning amendment can reveal a lot about people's conception of the nature of rights and government. Captain Ed opposes it, but for the wrong reason. [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 12:18 PM
» Flag Amendment from baldilocks
I’m against it. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. As much as we conservatives bash liberals for reasoning with their feelings, wanting to outlaw flag burning is a perfect example of the same phenomenon. The burning of the American flag makes most [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 12:35 PM
» Flag-Burning Amendment from The Anchoress
UPDATE: I always feel a little better when Ed Morrissey and I are thinking along the same lines. I dunno...maybe it's a bit of leftover liberal-Democrat lying around in my cellular make-up, or something, but I don't see the need for a constitutional... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 1:04 PM
» The Constitution Has Officially Been Crapped On from Multiple Mentality | www.multiplementality.com
In light of some recent activity in the Supreme Court and on the Hill, I have come to the conclusion that our Constitution, which so many of our forefathers (and foremothers) fought for the right to create, is now nothing more than a place for activist... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 1:11 PM
» Symbol Desecration from ProudToBeCanadian.ca's Columnist Team
“Oh no!“ Not another Koran touching rant!” Not at all. Today we will be discussing another commonly desecrated symbol. One that invokes vicious bile and diatribes from intellectual academics, that produces a killing rage in the sub...[Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 1:19 PM
» Flag Burning Amendment from Mark in Mexico
The House of Representatives approved the flag burning amendment yesterday. I don't really have too many strong feelings about this. It was probably just a little show of patriotism for the homefolks, although about 130 representatives declined the opp... [Read More]
Tracked on June 23, 2005 2:14 PM
My Other Blog!
Comment Moderation Policy - Please Read!
Skin The Site
Des Moines Register
International Herald Tribune
The Weekly Standard
The New Republic
AP News (Yahoo! Headlines)
Guardian Unlimited (UK)
New York Times
Los Angeles Times
- dave on Another National Health Care System Horror Story
- brooklyn on Hillary Not Hsu Happy
- rbj on Hillary Not Hsu Happy
- Robin S on Requiem For A Betrayed Hero
- Ken on Hillary Not Hsu Happy
- Robin S. on Requiem For A Betrayed Hero
- RBMN on Hillary Not Hsu Happy
- NoDonkey on Another National Health Care System Horror Story
- Robin Munn on Fred Thompson Interview Transcript
- filistro on When Exactly Did Art Die?
Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!