Minority should not rule on flag

When an overzealous homeowners association ordered retired Army Col. Van Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, to stop displaying a U.S. flag on his property last fall, the public response was deafening. Blog sites, such as The American Legion's Burn Pit, overflowed with comments from outraged readers. Friends of Barfoot started a Facebook page in support of his right to display the flag; the effort soon had nearly 63,000 fans. Letters to the editor poured in. National media picked up on it. Finally, under nothing more than pressure from the people, the association decided to drop the matter. Disturbing as the incident was, this can happen, and does happen, across the United States.

The whole phenonemon strikes me as ironic. A ban can be imposed against a war hero who wants to fly the flag of our country over his own property, but there can be no such ban on desecrating the sacred symbol of our freedom. "Sorry, Mr. Veteran, you're not allowed to fly the flag on your private property, but the Constitution says you can urinate on it, spit on it and burn it all you want."

For the past 21 years, dating back to the Supreme Court's flawed 5-4 Texas v. Johnson decision, The American Legion has been fighting to end that irony. By a margin of one justice's vote, flag-protection laws enacted by 48 states and the federal government were invalidated.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist usually voted differently, but they were both right about flag desecration.

"In my considered judgment, sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value, both for those who cherish the ideals for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it," Stevens wrote. "That tarnish is not justified by the trivial burden on free expression occasioned by requiring that an available, alternative mode of expression - including uttering words critical of the flag - be employed."

Rehnquist: "I cannot agree that the First Amendment invalidates the act of Congress, and the laws of 48 of the 50 states, which make criminal the burning of the flag."

Fortunately, we can do something about this. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives that would allow for a narrowly drawn constitutional amendment that would return to the people the right to protect Old Glory. It simply says, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

Flag-protection amendments have passed the House six times, only to fall short of the necessary two-thirds supermajority required in the Senate by the narrowest of margins. It is true that most Americans - and all 50 state legislatures - agree that our flag is worth protecting. That is why The American Legion continues to fight on Old Glory's behalf, and always will.

Please join me today in contacting your congressional representatives to seek their support for House Joint Resolution 47 and Senate Joint Resolution 15. The number is toll-free: (877) 762-8762.



  1. and, like all symbols, is created to represent moral and ethical premise(s); e.g. the U.S. Constitution. It would be a corruption of our Constitution to enshrine any symbol.

    Having been employed in property management, a majority of communities have CC&R's, which all residents read and acknowledge by signature. If portions are not agreeable to those residents, they should work through their HOA to have the subject clause changed/eliminated.

    While I personally view the desecration of the flag as reprehensible, it does provide a clue to the character of the person(s) committing the act. It would be far preferable to engage in a campaign to convince the media outlets to ignore such childish antics, depriving such person(s) of the attention they desire.

  2. Changing the Constitution is not going to stop those who feel that desecrating the flag is a way to express their opinions. They have the right of free speech and expression, as it should be. Under those same rights, I have the freedom to treat them like they are dead, or better yet, never born. Let the word get out that desecrating the flag may not be a crime, but your community, friends, and neighbors who don't approve of it will be showing you nothing but their backs as they walk away. It is going to take social pressure to get flag burners to stop. Treat them (and their cause) like they/it never existed. No matter how just the cause, turn your backs to the flag desecraters. And while I agree in principle with the ideals of a democratic republic, the majority still rules!!

  3. We must not give in to our own emotions over the flag. It is a symbol yes, but one that we collectively own. It belongs just as much to another, and their choice of expressions with it is their right. You can have a flag, and display it all you want, I would oppose anyone trying to interfere with the one you have. If they purchased, or made their own though, they should and are free to use it as they please. I don't agree with the appeal to emotion in the piece, as I would oppose the restrictions on the gentleman displaying his flag as well. Just because a group was wrong, doesn't mean it can be used to argue another point. We should all be fighting for flag freedom, as the Commander argued for for the gentleman in the piece. He should not however, turn around and vote to restrict freedom for dissenting action which emotionally disturbs him. In the end it belongs to us all, not just the one.

  4. I abhor desecration of the American Flag. However, I believe that such desecration is constitutionally protected as an act of free speech and expression. There are all manners of free speech and expression that I do not like. But I served in the military to protect free speech and expression.

    I recall that a previous Commander, who vehemently opposed flag burning, opined that the flag is only a symbol of what we hold dear, freedom and democracy.

    And it isn't about the minority ruling. Our forefathers established our democratic republic as a method to prevent the minority living under the tyranny of the majority.

  5. Commander, respectfully sir, please give thoughtful consideration to your brothers and sisters in arms that hold the opinion presented here by @rdickerson. The effort and expense of lobbying to usurp the Constitution we all once swore to defend and protect should be redirected toward a program that benefits, for example, active duty and recently discharged veterans and their families.

  6. I for one believe that desecrating our National flag should be considered an act treason. We don't allow for citizens to desecrate Goverment property like our National monuments which are symbals of our country. Then why let them desecrate Old Glory? I bet if it were a goverment bought flag then there would be action! but because it's privately owned the goverment doesn't have a law to protect it. Maybe a 1 cent tax to the goverment on every flag would make it destruction of goverment property and then they could procecute and the 1 cent tax would cover the cost of prosecution. Just a wild idea, but you see there are ways to make this happen!

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