U.S. Navy photo

Foster calls for passage of flag amendment

American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster is calling on Congress to quickly vote on and pass a proposed constitutional amendment that if ratified by the required states would allow Congress to protect the U.S. Flag from desecration.

"Senator (Orrin) Hatch and Sen. (Max) Baucus have just introduced a narrowly drawn bill that would return to the people a right that was taken from them 22 years ago by the Supreme Court, the right to protect Old Glory from desecration," Foster said. "The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 organizations, have long championed this amendment, along with large bipartisan majorities in Congress. It has passed the House of Representatives six times but fell slightly short of the required two-thirds votes needed in the Senate. I am optimistic that the new Congress will see the value in protecting a symbol that means so much to the people of our nation. What better time to renew our commitment to this cause but on Flag Day?"

The struggle to protect the flag from desecration began shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag desecration was "protected speech." The American Legion and other organizations were outraged that the 5-4 ruling invalidated flag protection laws in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

"One of the great tragedies of flag desecration is the disrespect it teaches children and the contempt that it displays for this country and those who have fought for our freedom," Foster said. "The Supreme Court has made its ruling, but the framers of the Constitution included an amendment process, which we intend to use. All 50 states, by action of their legislatures, have appealed to Congress in writing to pass a flag protection amendment and send it back to the states for ratification."

The amendment itself would not ban flag burning; it will simply authorize Congress to pass a law which would prohibit the desecration of actual U.S. flags. Its entire text is "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

The American Legion is calling on all Americans to ask their senators to support Senate Joint Resolution 19 and for representatives to support its companion in the House, House Joint Resolution 13. They can be contacted through the Legion's Legislative Action Center.