Shortly after the 4th of July recess, the U.S. Senate will once again consider a proposed constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to ban the burning or similar desecration of the American flag.
The proposed one-line amendment (H.J. RES. 10) reads, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
In the House, where the amendment passed 286-130 -- eight more votes than the two-thirds needed -- debate, as it always has, centered on whether or not a flag burning ban would violate the First Amendment's protection of free speech.
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision declaring flag-burning to be a form of social expression protected under the Constitution's freedom of speech protections.
The amendment's main sponsor, Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham (R-California, 50th) criticized the Court's ruling in his introductory remarks the House. "In that fateful 5-4 ruling, the Court cast aside longstanding national laws and 48 State laws recognizing the flag's special status and honoring its place in American society--ruling that its desecration is protected under the First Amendment," stated Cunningham. "For those who see our flag as a revered symbol of freedom and the great sacrifices that were made to sustain it at home and abroad, that decision was a horrible affront--and the call to action was immediate."
Noting that over 75 percent of Americans supported a ban on flag burning, Rep. Cunningham concluded, "The time to restore protections for our flag is long overdue. I ask my colleagues to join me in support of this Constitutional Amendment, and to move it back to the American people for speedy ratification."
Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York, 8th) stated, "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."
Should the amendment be approved by a two-thirds vote in the Senate, it would then go the states for ratification. (See: Amending the Constitution) Even opponents of the amendment agree it has the best chance ever of passing in the Senate.