Desecration of the Flag Should be Prohibited
Is it necessary to allow all forms of protest to protect the right of citizens to express grievances against their government? It is not a violation of free speech to outlaw burning of the flag because it is not speech. It will not lead to the limiting of other avenues of protest, of which many are more expressive of specific problems. All attempts to protect the flag short of a Constitutional amendment have failed in the end. A change to the constitution to prohibit the desecration of the U.S. flag is a necessary step to protect one of our most sacred national symbols.
Several methods to protect the flag have been tried over many years. Between the late 1800's and into the early 1900's many of the states passed laws protecting the flag. There were numerous prosecutions for flag desecration during the Vietnam era and afterwards, until 1984 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled these laws unconstitutional. The controversy peaked in 1989 and 1990 when a federal law to prohibit flag desecration was passed and subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court.
The first amendment guarantees its citizens the right of speaking freely, but is the act of burning a flag "speech"? It is an inflammatory action that should not be protected by a clause meant to insure that citizens would not be suppressed in their efforts express unhappiness with the government or its actions. Limiting a person's right to free expression is not a radical new idea either; speaking or writing false statements that harm others (slander and libel) are illegal and have been for a long time. To allow desecration of a national symbol based on the "free speech" clause is a flimsy misuse of the constitution.
The act of burning a flag does not address any specific grievance; it only expresses unhappiness with the United States in general. Persons who are generally unhappy with this country should be able to find a better way to express their displeasure. The ineffective nature of protesting in this manner is summarized well by Robert Goldstein:"a generally high counterproductive political tactic - one that mostly alienates people and makes them turn away before they have a chance of grasping any particular message that such conduct seeks to convey" (preface, Pg XI). Flag burning is not a necessary or effective way to protest against any particular action.
The flag is not a symbol representing the government of the United States; burning it portrays displeasure, not with government policies, but with the country itself. This is why so many...