Don't Burn the Bill of Rights
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on 7/31/95.)
In your editorial on flag burning (7/22/95), you commented about the constitutional amendment proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives that is designed to ban the protest burning and other desecrations of the U.S. flag. You wrote, "It's too bad we even need to consider such a law." A few paragraphs later you followed with, "It shouldn't even be an issue, let alone an option, among our citizens," to burn the flag.
You seem to be hesitantly supporting the proposed amendment to the Bill of Rights -- the first in 204 years -- against flag burning.
I agree that it is too bad that we need to consider such a law, but not because our flag is in any danger. I'm more concerned about the interests of our legislatures who favor this amendment. In his column, Joseph Spear (Daily Review 7/19/95) called them, "... gutless flag-flappers who would barter the Bill of Rights for a few votes." Rather that deal with the more serious issues of crime, health care, tax laws, and uncontrolled government spending, those who favor the amendment feign patriotism to rationalize their actions.
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that flag burning is protected as free speech, with Justice Kennedy writing , the "flag protects those who hold it in contempt."
You are correct that it should not be an issue since there have been approximately only a dozen burnings since 1989. However, you should consider changing your opinion that it should not be an option, for removing that option erodes a basic freedom that is envied by the rest of the world -- our unequivocal freedom of expression.
Freedom is never free; it is the most costly right that we have. My freedom of expression is only valid as long as everyone has that same freedom. Those who would burn the flag in protest are destroying only cloth -- not the concepts represented by this great symbol. But modify the Bill of Rights, and these concepts are desecrated more than any flag burner ever could.
John L. Ferri