The United States Senate voted on a resolution June 27 that could have changed our Constitution forever.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced S.J.RES.12 April 14. Had this resolution received a two-thirds vote, it would have amended the Constitution to allow Congress to “prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
On the Fourth of July we celebrate our national independence and our freedom from those who oppressed us over 200 years ago. Now the Senate wants to change the Constitution to take some of our freedom of speech away.
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us that “Congress shall make no law? abridging the freedom of speech?”.
Hatch’s resolution would have done exactly that – abridge freedom of expression.
I am not saying that I agree with flag burning or that I would personally partake in such an activity, but as it has been said so many times before, doesn’t the freedom represented by the flag give me the right to burn it? Like millions of others, I believe it does.
The majority of the senators who are co-sponsoring this resolution are Republicans. Only nine are Democrats. Unfortunately, one of those Democrats comes from our very own state of California.
Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees with the Republican senators that our freedom of speech should be limited. Her support of the resolution makes me wonder whether she is truly representing her constituents in our state. Californians believe in their freedom of speech, doesn’t she?
Even one Republican senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell doesn’t believe that passing this resolution would have been the right thing to do. Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”, McConnell said “The First Amendment has served us well for over 200 years. I don’t think it needs to be altered.”
This is not the first time that such a situation has been brought up. In 1989, Gregory Lee Johnson was arrested in Texas because he burned an American flag after the Republican National Convention ended in Dallas.
Johnson took the case to court alleging that he was protected by the First Amendment of the constitution.
The case made it to the Supreme Court, where it voted 5-4 in favor of Johnson.
The Justices agreed that although the words of the First Amendment specify “speech”, for a long time they have taken the words to mean things beyond the written or spoken word, according to Justice Brennan, who delivered the opinion of the court on June 21, 1989.
When Congress voted on June 27, freedom stood strong and the resolution died with a 66-34 vote. Had the resolution received one more vote in favor it would have passed.
Had the resolution received the two-third votes it needed, it would have then needed to be ratified by 38 of our 50 United States.
The Senate tried to ban flag burning six years ago, but the resolution failed with a vote of 63-37, four votes short.
In both the 2000 case and this years resolution the House of Representatives approved the resolution before it was sent to the Senate.
Although we do not have to worry about having that part of our rights taken away this year, it is very possible that in the future, Congress will abridge the rights that our founding fathers gave us.
Six years ago the resolution died four votes short, this year by only one vote. The next time the resolution is brought up, it could pass.
If you believe in your right as a citizen to express yourself in any way you see fit, which doesn’t hurt others, contact Senator Feinstein and tell her that she should be representing her constituents, not herself.
This resolution, along with others that Republican Senators have put forth in the past several months, are all part of their strategy for the midterm elections this November.