Vitter's View: Protecting our Flag
June 14th is Flag Day, a day when we commemorate the adoption of our nation's flag. First designated by a proclamation issued by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Flag Day was officially established by an act of Congress in 1949. Throughout the nation, cities and towns hold festivals and parades in celebration of our flag.
The American flag serves as a symbol of the treasured values preserved by the Constitution and protected by brave patriots. In a diverse nation, it has stood as a common denominator and unifies us as one people and one country. Unfortunately, some individuals desecrate the flag in political protest. Out of reverence for our American traditions and for the men and women who have fought and died to protect them, we must protect the integrity of our flag.
To prevent the desecration of our flag, I am proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would enable Congress to prohibit flag desecration and establish criminal penalties for the act.
Although Congress has been addressing this issue for many years, it has yet to take a definitive stand. In 1968, the issue took particular precedence as a result of the Vietnam War. Congress passed the Flag Protection Act to prevent protesters from defacing the flag, holding to the belief that the flag was tantamount to dishonoring the service of the military. For the next 20 years, federal and state courts upheld this legislation, but that changed when the Supreme Court, in Texas v. Johnson (1989) and United States v. Eichman (1990), ruled that the First Amendment protects a citizen's right to burn the flag in political protest.
These decisions have made a Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration necessary. While I agree that the right to free speech is a key component of our individual liberties, I do not believe that this right extends to the desecration of the flag. The flag represents our rights protected by the Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and a violation of the flag is tantamount to a disavowal of these same rights.
Freedom of expression is integral to our American character, but it is a mature expression. A Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration will ensure the integrity of our flag - and reverence for our American traditions and for the men and women who have fought and died to protect them.
I encourage you and your family to gather with your friends this Flag Day and celebrate this symbol of our national values - and of our nation.
Please let me know about any issues of importance to you and your family by contacting me 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.