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What is Citizenship? Attitudes and Actions Responsible Citizenship Communicating Keeping Freedom What Do You Think?

Flag Burning

Read the following quotations about flag burning and decide whether you would support or oppose a constitutional amendment.  Select either SUPPORT or OPPOSE by putting a check mark in the text boxes provided on the attached worksheet.

  1. "This is the time when true lovers of the flag and what it symbolizes need to stand up for it…We don't want to desecrate our Bill of Rights in order to permit the prosecution of a handful of peaceful protestors [by making flag burning a crime]." 
American Bar Association
  1. "Desecration of the flag is malicious conduct and we ought to have a right to contain it." 
Former Senator Robert Dole
  1. "Punishing desecration of the flag dilutes the very freedom that makes this emblem so revered, and worth revering."
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
  1. I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

  2. People who burn the flag may be protesting not the ideals for which it stands but rather the degree to which their country has fallen short of those ideals.

  3. Rather than dwell on burning flags, let us examine the causes of flag burning.

  4. "…A truncheon is a very effective tool for a community trying to teach its members which opinions are acceptable." 
From a letter to The Wall Street Journal*
  1. "Free speech…means the right not to agree with the community; the right not to accept what its symbols have come to represent…"
From the same letter. *
  1. A community has rights superior to an individual's.  Community standards are established to provide a stable foundation in our society.

*The Wall Street Journal, copyright 1990, Dow Jones and Company, Inc.

After completing the attached worksheet, discuss each quotation above with your teacher and classmates.  Find how to make your views known to your elected representatives.


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The Flag Protection Amendment, S.J. Res. 12, which was sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), read: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The Flag Protection Amendment, had it passed, would not have directly prohibited the desecration of the flag. It would have required that Congress enact legislation defining the terms "flag" and "desecration" while also empowering that body with the option of imposing penalties upon the violators of any subsequent policies made against flag desecration.

*Citizenship section select ideas derived from Citizenship, Learning to Live as Responsible Citizens, published by Good Apple, Inc.

The Dirksen Congressional CenterCopyright 2008