The U.S. Senate is one vote away from passing a constitutional amendment that would criminalize desecration of the U.S. flag.
If successful, it will mark the first time in 214 years that the Bill of Rights has been restricted by a constitutional amendment, and will place the United States among a select group of nations that have banned flag desecration, including Cuba, China, Iran, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Three reasons to oppose the flag amendment:
— Flag burning is a non-problem: As Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) has said, “I don’t want to amend the Constitution to solve a non-problem. People are not burning the flag.” One study found just 45 reported incidents in the over 200 years between 1777 and 1989, when the Flag Protection Act was first passed.
— Flag burning is protected speech: The Supreme Court has twice ruled that destruction of the flag for political purposes, although highly offensive to most Americans, is undeniably a political statement and a political expression.
— Amendment is vaguely worded: The amendment is “phrased in such broad and vague language” that it could could include censorship of images of the flag in works of art, advertising, or commerce. Last week, the Senate spent time debating whether “wearing a very skimpy bathing suit” decorated with the flag’s stars and stripes would constitute desecration.
Now, aided by a handful of Democrats, the amendment has gathered 66 votes in favor, just one shy of passage. “Whether advocates can find the 67th vote to send the flag amendment to the states for ratification remains unclear.”