Vitter's View: Honoring Old Glory
The American flag is such an important symbol to our country, that from the time we are children, we salute the flag with a hand over our hearts and pledge our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.
I've heard from so many people across the state in support of a flag protection amendment to prevent the desecration of our American flag. They point out that in battles all around the globe for the past two centuries, the American flag has served as an inspiration and rallying point for our armed forces fighting for the ideals it embodies. And I agree that Old Glory should be revered and protected because it represents American history, American sacrifice and hope for our nation's future.
That's why I'm an original coauthor of a U.S. Senate resolution that proposes a Constitutional amendment to prohibit the physical desecration of our flag. We hold the flag with such reverence that it covers the coffins of America's military heroes who have dedicated their lives to the service of our nation. The act of burning the flag shows a tremendous disrespect for the men and women who have died to make the United States what it is today.
In 1968, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act, which prohibited flag desecration to prevent those protesting the conflict in Vietnam from burning the American flag for which our soldiers were fighting and dying. This measure was upheld by state and federal courts for 20 years.
However, in 1989 and 1990 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two separate cases that burning the American flag during a political protest is constitutionally protected free speech. Before these decisions 48 states and the District of Columbia had laws regulating physical misuse of the American flag. And now we have another example of judicial activism undermining the values of the American people.
This Flag Protection Amendment does not amend the First Amendment to the Constitution, under which every American has a right to free speech. It merely gives Congress the power to enact laws prohibiting the physical desecration of our flag. And the First Amendment is not without limitations. For example, it does not cover certain types of hate speech and obscenity. And while the First Amendment protects a number of avenues for individuals to voice their dissent, I do not believe it extends to the physical desecration of the symbol that embodies the spirit of our nation.
The U.S. Senate will soon vote on the Flag Protection Amendment, which simply states, "The Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The American Legion, the United Armed Forces Association and nearly 150 other organizations support the passage of this Constitutional amendment, in addition to nearly 80 percent of the American public. I plan to vote in support of this amendment on the U.S. Senate floor.
With Independence Day just around the corner, and Flag Day celebrations just completed, we will all be reminded of our American flag and all it represents - "One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how to protect the American flag from desecration. Please contact me with your ideas at any of my state offices or in my Washington office by mail at U.S. Senator David Vitter, U.S. Senate, 516 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, or by phone at 202-224-4623. You can also reach me on the web at http://vitter.senate.gov.