Protecting Our American Flag

The flag is a national treasure and deserves to be protected. It is up to us, as American citizens, to advocate the restoration of the people’s right to restrict desecration of our nation’s most important symbol.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress resolved: “That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” It’s interesting to note that the United States Flag predates the adoption of the U.S. Constitution by 12 years. It’s been a part of America longer than our most revered legal document.  Beginning in the late 1890s, many states created Flag Desecration Statutes to protect the flag from being misused or misrepresented.

The U.S. Flag has led troops into battle since the Revolutionary War; it has inspired men and women to great deeds; it flies above our places of business as a testimony to the free enterprise system; it is displayed in our houses of worship as testimony to our freedom to worship God as our conscience dictates; it flies over our government buildings because it symbolizes our form of government; it is displayed in our schools as testimony to the importance of universal education and our desire for an educated populace; it is proudly flown from our front porches because we are proud to be Americans and we are proud of the contributions our nation has made.

Later on, in 1942, the Federal Flag Code was enacted which provided guidelines and uniformity for the respectful display and use of flags. It is important to understand that the Federal Flag Code was non-punitive in nature and therefore acted only as a guide.

In 1968 the government responded to a major flag burning incident in Central Park. Their response was the Federal Flag Desecration Law (18 U.S.C. 700 et seq.). This new law made it illegal to mutilate, deface, burn, or trample the American Flag. This law stood until 1989 when the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson (491 U.S. 397) that it was unconstitutional for Texas to charge an individual for desecrating or mistreating the American Flag. Texas v. Johnson  invalidated the flag-protection laws in 48 states and the District of Columbia. During the same year Congress attempted to pass the Flag Protection Act, which was a toned down version of the Flag Desecration Law. In another court case, the United States v. Eichman (496 U.S. 310), it was determined that the Flag Protection Act was still aimed at limiting free speech and multiple arrests were overturned as a result.

The Supreme Court in its opinion said that the only way the flag could be protected would be by the creation of a narrow category a – “juridical category” – wherein the flag was specifically recognized above all other symbols and, therefore, could be accorded special protection.

Finally in 1990, a Constitutional Amendment was attempted to allow both Congress and the States the right to “prohibit the physical desecration of the Flag of the United States.” The amendment did not receive enough votes in the House or the Senate and failed.

The Flag Protection Act of 2005 was a proposed United States federal law introduced by Senator Bob Bennett (RUtah), with original co-sponsor Senator Hillary Clinton (DN.Y.). Additional co-sponsors include Barbara Boxer (DCalif.), Mark Pryor (DArk.) and Thomas Carper (DDel.).[1] The law would have prohibited burning or otherwise destroying and damaging the US flag with the primary purpose of intimidation or inciting immediate violence or for the act of terrorism. It called for a punishment of no more than one year in prison and a fine of no more than $100,000; unless that flag was property of the United States Government, in which case the penalty would be a fine of not more than $250,000, not more than two years in prison, or both.

Again in 2012, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Flag Protection Act of 2012 – This would have replaced provisions regarding desecration of the flag of the United States with provisions that subject any person who: (1) destroys or damages a U.S. flag with the primary purpose and intent to incite or produce imminent violence or a breach of the peace to a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 1 year, or both; (2) intentionally threatens or intimidates any person or group of persons by burning a U.S. flag to a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 1 year, or both; (3) steals or knowingly converts to his or her use, or the use of another, a U.S. flag belonging to the United States and intentionally destroys or damages that flag to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both; and (4) steals or knowingly converts to his or her use, or the use of another, a U.S. flag belonging to the United States and intentionally destroys or damages that flag within any lands reserved for the use of, or under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction of, the United States to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both. This bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary where it remained.

This brings us to today. People are filming themselves walking on the American Flag, burning the American Flag, and mistreating the symbol of this nation. As a service member, it should come as no surprise that emotion would run high at this point. This very flag adorns the coffins of our brothers and sisters in arms on their final journey home. It is an iconic symbol which is very close to our hearts. The conflict arises when we consider that in joining the military, we do make an oath to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States….” Therefore, the law of the land is the decision of the Supreme Court.

In a Tuesday morning (11/29/2016) tweet, President-elect Donald Trump shared his thoughts on American flag burning, and how there “must be consequences” for doing so.

History has shown us that protecting our American flag has bi-partisan support. The Democrats want it. The Republicans want it. WE THE PEOPLE WANT IT! Lets work together and protect this symbol of freedom that so many have fought and died for. The time is now.