Courier Letters to the Editor 12-14-16

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On burning the US Flag

Dear Editor,

Recently, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted it should be illegal to burn the American flag. I agree.

As an outgrowth of the 1960s and ‘70s, most all states and the U.S. Congress passed anti-flag-burning laws. In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled burning the flag was a right of free speech and struck down those laws as unconstitutional.

It is illegal for me to burn U.S. dollars I have in my possession. The government tells me I can’t burn my leaves that fall from my trees onto my land. Yet it is unconstitutional for the same government to pass a law that says it is illegal to burn the U.S. flag?

The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech (words spoken) and freedom of the press (words written). Tell me where in the Constitution does it say the word “speech” also means an “action” like flag burning?

If the court wants to interpret the First Amendment, it should through the eyes of the framers of the Constitution. In his initial draft of the First Amendment, James Madison wrote the “right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments.” His detail didn’t broaden the definition, but instead drilled down on the definition of the spoken and written word.

Does anyone think if British loyalists in 1780 would have burned the U.S. flag in support of Britain in the Revolutionary War that James Madison would have stood up and said, “This is protected speech”? It would have been seen by Madison, Washington and other war-torn officials as giving aid and comfort to the enemy (treason) or an effort to undermine the existence of the U.S. government (sedition).

Plain and simple, the Supreme Court legislated from the bench and added that speech also means action, such as in burning the flag.

There is a way to amend the Constitution to add such meaning, and that is done through the amendment process. Just because that is difficult to do, does not give the Supreme Court the authority to add meaning to the Constitution via court ruling.

Bigger picture, too much is falling by the wayside, beit with flag burning, sanitizing the public square of religious expression, gay marriage, transgender bathrooms and the smut on TV and in the movies (sex, four-letter words, violence). I can’t imagine the culture we’ll face when the last vestige of traditional values and morality is gone (when the Depression/WWII babies die). I’m not for conspiracy theories, but if you were going to destroy a country from within, this is one way to do it — wipe out its strongly held traditions and moral code.

Alex Saitta