A spike in flag desecrations has led American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong to call on lawmakers to quickly pass a proposed constitutional amendment that when ratified by the required states would allow Congress to protect the U.S. flag from desecration.
“For years opponents of this measure have been telling us that flag desecration in the United States was so rare that this amendment was not needed,” Wong said. “Yet the Associated Press reports that there have been several such incidents at the Occupy Oakland demonstrations. Moreover, some in Congress say that this is a waste of time. What they don’t understand is that most Americans are sickened when they see Old Glory desecrated, and polls show that they widely support this amendment. This measure has bipartisan support. The flag-protection amendment is a prime opportunity for members of Congress to come together and accomplish something great for the American people.”
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. In response, The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 organizations that is now chaired by Harvard Law Professor Richard Parker, have championed the passage of a narrowly drawn constitutional amendment that would return to the people the right to protect the flag of the United States. Such an amendment has passed the House of Representatives six times but has fallen short of the necessary two-thirds supermajority required to pass the Senate.
“The last time a vote was taken in the Senate it fell only one vote short,” Wong said. “As people are again seeing images on YouTube of their flag being desecrated – the same flag that covers the coffins of our war heroes returning from Afghanistan – we think it’s time for Congress to take another vote. The American people should tell their representatives and senators to support S.J. Res 19 and H.J. Res. 13. Congress can either stand with the 1 percent who desecrate the flag or the 99 percent who revere it.”
The amendment itself would not ban flag burning; it would 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.” If the measure were passed by Congress, it would require ratification by three-fourths of the states before it would become enshrined in the Constitution.