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Letters to the 107th Congress

June 27, 2001

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the American Bar Association I urge you to oppose H. J. Res. 36, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. We, like the proponents of this amendment, hold dear the symbol that is the flag; but we hold even more dear what the flag represents, including the Constitutional protection of free speech.

Proponents of this amendment claim that a physical act, like flag burning, is not speech. This contradicts long standing legal precedent that expressive acts are speech. Just as saluting a flag expresses honor and respect for the ideals for which it flies, destroying that same flag expresses an opposing view. Flag desecration, when done as an expressive act, is protected as speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Our democracy is built on tolerance--tolerance for the beliefs of others and tolerance for the expression of those beliefs. Free speech is not an inconvenience to be bypassed with Constitutional "fixes". It lies at the heart of our system of governance. We are the most respected nation in the world because we are the most respectful of freedom. Will we bequeath to our children the same rights our forefathers bequeathed to us?

The American Bar Association deplores any desecration of the flag, our revered national symbol. But the principle of free speech in the First Amendment--what the flag, in part, represents--is more important than the symbol itself. We urge you to oppose H. J. Res. 36.


Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

107th Congress Letters Home

Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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