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Flag Burning And The First Amendment

2165 words - 9 pages

   Your First Amendment rights are extremely close to being violated by none other than the United States Congress. I refer to the Flag Desecration Bill that, if passed, would do irreparable damage to our right to free speech and undermine the very priniciples for which the American flag stands. Fortunately, West Virginians have an ally in Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Sen. Byrd, who previously favored the bill, now fights to protect our rights by stopping the passage of this bill. I applaud his stand and want to reinforce his position. I also encourage you to join Sen. Byrd's campaign to ensure the legacy and supremacy of the greatest law in the land: the United States Constitution.

Though the Senate expects to vote on this amendment before the 105th Congress adjourns this fall, this is not the first time such a bill has been introduced to Congress. Nonetheless, this is the closest that it has ever come to actually passing through both Houses. The Citizens Flag Alliance recorded that the House passed the flag-protection resolution by a vote of 310-144 on June 12, 1997 (internet). It was then sent to the Senate in February for a vote. Is there a possibility such a bill could pass in the Senate? According to Daniel S. Webster, President of the Citizens Flag Alliance, as many as 64 Senators have already committed to voting "yes" for the amendment (internet). The Constitution states that only 67 votes are needed to propose the amendment to the state legislatures. If 38 state legislatures approve the proposed amendment, it will then ratify the Constitution (Wilson). According to the Citizens Flag Alliance, 49 states have already passed the resolution (internet). With such a close margin, those Senators who oppose the legislation need our support and encouragement in order to stop passage of the amendment. Otherwise, free speech will come to depend on what politicians are willing to permit.


With so much of our civil liberties at stake, it would appear that the country would fiercely oppose such legislation. However, as the magazine Quill observed, the American people seem to hold little regard for the fact that Congress may ratify this amendment at any moment. Quill also finds it unnerving that the people so seemingly forget that the last time this amendment was brought before the Senate, it failed to pass Senate approval only by a narrow three-vote margin (Quill). Again the amendment finds itself the center of consideration from the Senate, and again the margin between passage or failure sets between a very fine line. Paul McMasters, First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom Forum, recognizes the close margin and the urgent need of citizens to encourage their Senate representatives to oppose the legislation before it becomes an amendment. He ominously predicts that "before we know it, we could have an amendment to the Constitution that would put beyond reach of reason or the courts the question of whether those in power can prohibit and...

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