Another Flag Amendment

By Edward Hasbrouck

"Three strikes and you're out," you thought? No such luck.

Proponents of the Flag Consecration Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are preparing, for the fourth time, to bring their amendment to the First Amendment to a vote in Congress this year, with a better chance of passage than ever before.

While the Flag Consecration Amendment is widely perceived to have been "defeated" after the Supreme Court decisions re-affirming the lond-standing precedents in favor of the right to express onses ideas with flags (and other symbols) in 1989 and 1990, "defeat" is an inappropriate word for what happened.

In each of the three years it has been brought to up in Congress (in 1989, 1990, and again in 1995) the Flag Consecration Amendment has been approved by majorities of both houses of Congress. In both 1989 and 1990, it fell well short of the required 2/3 in both houses of Congress. In 1995, it was approved by well more than the requisite 2/3 of the House of Representatives, and was only 3 votes short of getting 2/3 of the Senate. It will only take four changed votes or new Senators since 1995 for the Flag Protection Amendment to be approved this year. (The legislatures of 49 states -- all except Vermont -- have passed resolutions since 1989 calling on Congress to propose such an amendment, and there is little doubt that, if proposed by Congress, the amendment will be ratified by the requisite 3/4 of the states within the allotted seven years, and will become part of the Constitution, superceding the conflicting portions of the First Amendment and other clauses.)

This year's version of the Flag Consecration Amendment, H.J.Res. 54, was introduced by Rep. Gerald Solomon (R-NY), who is also Chairman of the House Rules Committee, which sets the terms of debate for bills being considered by the House. This gives proponents of the Flag Amendment much more control than in previous years over the timing and issues permitted to be raised in Conggressional debate on the Amendment. H.J. Res. 54 was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judicary Committee, which held hearings on the Flag Amendment 30 April 1997. Both the Subcommittee and (on 14 May 1997) the full Juciary Committee have now voted to recommend passage of the Flag Amendment, and it could be taken up for debate and vote in the full House at any time.

Some of of the prepared testimony from the hearings, which were quite one-sided, is online.

As before, the most extensive (and still growing) collection of information on the Flag Consecration Amendment, the issues it raises, and links to related sites, is on The Flag-Burning Page.

Passage of the Flag Consecration Amendment by 2/3 of the House, as in 1995, is very likely. The question is whether supporters of the amendment can convince four more Senators to vote for it. And the largest factor in determining that is likley to be the degree to which the Flag Consecration Amendment becomes a public, and publicly-debated, issue. Those who want to lock up flag "descrators" to silence dissent are, not surprisingly, those who most fear open public debate.

The Flag Consecration Amendment will not go away. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Supporters of the amendment are hoping to sneak it through without the widespread public debate and awareness of the issue that mobilized lovers of freedom, critics of the U.S. government, and other opponents of the amendment to burn U.S. flags and engage in other spontaneous grassroots expressions of opposition in previous years.

Will you sit still while they take away your freedom? Or will you join those who believe that there is no time to burn flags like today, when they want to take that right away from us all?

Stay tuned for "Flag Wars: The Sequel, Round 4"....

Edward Hasbrouck is author of "The Practical Nomad: How To Travel Around The World" (in press; to be published September 1997 by Moon Publications).