Sunday, June 8, 2003

Let people decide on flag desecration

In arguing against flag protection, the June 5 editorial, "Don't erode freedoms" leaves the reader wondering if the writers have read the Constitution or only the First Amendment. The importance of the First Amendment is indisputable, as is the right set out in Article V that allows amending of the Constitution when the people and their elected representatives deem it warranted. It is a process of democracy, and it is hard to understand why the Enquirer would stand in the way.

The notion that flag burning is rare is not an issue, and if the Enquirer was to follow this mind-set they need to withdraw editorial opinion (April 9, 2003) that cross burning, which occurs far more infrequently than flag burning, should be illegal. Our laws are based on right and wrong, not frequency of occurrence.

It is interesting that many of those with editorial muscle tend not only to oppose the effort, but also to disparage those on and away from Capitol Hill who support it. The rationale offered by Rep. Steve Chabot, that allowing flag desecration invites "our country's gradual decline" was clear to amendment supporters. He was speaking of the decline of civility, of values. In fact, legalized flag desecration holds a place right alongside legalized cross burning and the "unconstitutionality" of the Pledge of Allegiance. Each decision of the court in these cases has been one more domino in the devaluing of America.

Let's cut to the chase. Protecting the flag is not about free speech. It is not about tinkering with the Constitution. It is not about toleration of those with different views. It is about the kind of people we are. It is about different kinds of people wrestling for the soul of America. It is about a minority who fear the democratic process and show disdain for the founding fathers who wanted the majority of the people to control the Constitution through their representatives if possible, and through the amendment process as necessary.

All supporters are asking is that the amendment go favorably from Capitol Hill to state legislatures for the process of ratification. Let's let the people decide if their flag deserves constitutional protection.

Marty Justis, Executive director, Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc., Indianapolis

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