First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
Clark tells veterans he favors flag amendment

By The Associated Press
11.12.03

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Breaking with most of his Democratic rivals, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark says he favors amending the Constitution to criminalize flag-burning.

Lawmakers have debated the amendment almost annually since 1989, when the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that flag-burning was a protected free-speech right.

In June, the Republican-controlled House approved a one-line change to the Constitution — "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States" — for the fifth time in eight years. The Senate has not passed the legislation.

Speaking at an American Legion hall on Veterans Day, Clark said he agrees with the amendment, though he cautioned that true patriotism involves more than respecting symbols.

"I'm in favor of the American flag amendment, but as I travel around the country what I see is a new spirit of patriotism, and it goes a long way beyond the American flag," he said. "It's not just the American flag, it's the idea that even in a time of war, the right thing to do is bring your ideas in, and no administration can ever say if you disagree with it that you're not being patriotic."

Among the Democratic presidential hopefuls in Congress, Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards have opposed the amendment. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Dick Gephardt have supported it.

Supporters argue that burning Old Glory shows disrespect for America, and that a majority of Americans approve of legal protection for the flag. But many opponents say the legislation would limit free-speech rights.

"Our country is defined by the rights we protect and those of us who fought for freedom and put our lives on the line defended the right of people to do things that we disagree with," Kerry said yesterday. "As I've said before, if I saw someone burning the flag, I'd punch them in the mouth because I love the flag, but the Constitution that I fought for preserves the right of free expression."

Both Clark and Kerry have touted their military records to attract veterans to their campaigns. But the flag issue was a turning point for Ernie Jones, an Army veteran from Manchester who said on Nov. 10 that he was switching his support from Kerry to Clark.

Jones, an independent who has voted Republican in the past, said military experience is essential given the dangers America faces.

"I look at that as Number 1 because we have to right now," he said.


Related

House again OKs changing Constitution to ban flag-burning

Anti-desecration amendment, critics charge, would criminalize a powerful form of political protest. 06.04.03

Candidates state positions on flag amendment
Of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, only Wesley Clark expresses support for constitutional change. 01.23.04

Patriotism and politics: the rush to rewrite the Constitution
By Ken Paulson Proposal to ban flag-burning wouldn't just be a resolution or even a law that could be struck down — this proposal would be a permanent constitutional amendment curtailing our basic freedom to protest. 06.15.03

Flag-burning overview


News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print


Last system update: Friday, July 25, 2008 | 08:36:29
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

First Reports
Supreme Court
Experts
Columnists
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links