Column By Senator Mitch McConnell On Opposing The Flag Desecration Amendment

Date: June 26, 2006

Column By Senator Mitch McConnell On Opposing The Flag Desecration Amendment

from the Office of Senator Mitch McConnell

Monday, June 26, 2006

Whether flying on an aircraft carrier, hanging in one of our embassies, or worn as a patch on a soldier's uniform, the American flag stands for freedom.

The vast majority of Americans honor the flag, and rightly so. Some would go so far as to amend the Constitution to protect the flag against those who would burn it. While I share and admire their patriotism, altering our First Amendment, even for the worthy purpose of protecting the flag, is not a position I can support.

Make no mistake—I treasure the Stars and Stripes as much as any American. One of my most prized possessions is the flag which honored my father's military service in World War II. It was draped upon his coffin after his death from cancer in 1990. He fought in the European theater to protect the freedoms that flag represents, and it now rests proudly on the mantle in my Senate office.

I don't share the slightest shred of sympathy with any who would dare desecrate the flag. They demean the service of millions of Americans, including my father and the brave men and women currently fighting the War on Terror. They deserve rebuke and condemnation—if not a punch in the nose.

I revere the American flag as a symbol of freedom. But behind it is something larger—the Constitution. The First Amendment, which protects our freedom of speech, is the most precious part of the Bill of Rights. As disgusting as the ideas expressed by those who would burn the flag are, they remain protected by the First Amendment.

Our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment because they believed that, even with all the excesses and offenses that freedom of speech would undoubtedly allow, truth and reason would triumph in the end. And they believed the answer to offensive speech was not to regulate it, but to counter it with more speech.

No act of speech is so obnoxious that it merits tampering with our First Amendment. Our Constitution, and our country, is stronger than that.

Weakening our First Amendment could also set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Bill of Rights. If we successfully carve out an exception to one basic freedom, perhaps those who seek to curtail our Second Amendment rights—the right to bear arms—will carve out another. Or the right to own private property, as expressed in the Fifth Amendment, could come under assault.

We also must realize that even a constitutional amendment will not instill proper respect for the flag in any scoundrel who would burn it. On the contrary, by invoking our sacred constitutional amendment process, we would give such a person just what he seeks: attention. Why tamper with the First Amendment to solve a problem that thankfully is not widespread?

Flag burning is an abominable act. We're lucky to live in a country where the overwhelming majority of people not only reject it, but honor the American flag and the freedoms it stands for. These freedoms are America's source of strength.

America stood strong to defeat fascism and communism. After a vicious sneak attack on September 11, 2001, we fought back stronger than ever against terrorism. Surely we are strong enough to withstand a few degenerate attention-seekers.

Ultimately, people like that pose little harm to our country. But tinkering with our First Amendment might.

The solution to such offensive expression is more freedom, not less. More freedom will reveal the abhorrent falsehoods behind flag desecration. And as our courageous soldiers on the battlefield continue to demonstrate every day, freedom is the most potent weapon Americans have.