As we approach another Fourth of July, a day when we celebrate the signing of a document in 1776 that set forth a grand experiment in self-government and free speech, the House last week passed a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. For the first time, the amendment appears to have a strong chance of clearing the Senate, too, which would send it on for ratification by the states.
Some would declare the pursuit of this amendment to be a patriotic act that honors the heroic actions of our forebears in Philadelphia nearly 230 years ago. In truth, it undermines their commitment to free political speech that was ratified 13 years later in the Bill of Rights.
Burning the U.S. flag in protest, a detestable act in the eyes of many Americans, is political speech. How ironic-and profoundly unsettling-that a growing number of lawmakers in Washington seek to protect the symbol of our freedom by restricting the very freedom for which it stands.
Freedom is glorious, but it has a double edge that sometimes cuts against our personal preferences. If we value the freedom to express our views about the actions of our government, we must grant the same freedom to others who would express a different view through a different means.
Let’s live up to our legacy. -DR