|The Flag Desecration Amendment|
The Flag Desecration Amendment
President Elect Donald Trump raised some eyebrows recently when he suggested he would be in favor of punishing flag burners with a one year prison sentence and potentially with a loss of citizenship. He did so in a tweet that specifically stated "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
Some pointed to the fact that this issue has already been decided. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that flag burning, as a form of protest, is a protected form of free speech. It's legal in the U.S. to protest by burning the American flag.
What surprised many, however, was when they learned that Hillary Clinton, who Trump defeated for the U.S. Presidency in November, sponsored legislation over 10 years ago as a U.S. Senator, that would have done some of what the future president is suggesting.
The Flag Protection Act of 2005
According to Congress.gov, the Flag Protection Act states the following:
"Amends the federal criminal code to revise provisions regarding desecration of the flag to prohibit: (1) destroying or damaging a U.S. flag with the primary purpose and intent to incite or produce imminent violence or a breach of the peace; (2) intentionally threatening or intimidating any person, or group of persons, by burning a U.S. flag; or (3) stealing or knowingly converting the use of a U.S. flag belonging to the United States, or belonging to another person on U.S. lands, and intentionally destroying or damaging that flag."
While it doesn't paint with the broad strokes of Donald Trump's less than 140 character statement, and it certainly didn't threaten loss of citizenship, it's clear the intention was to make flag burning to incite imminent violence a crime. Mrs. Clinton was listed as one of the four sponsors on the bill that ultimately died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
See more: Voteoplis.com
Not The First, Nor Likely the Last Effort
Vietnam war demonstrations prompted the initial attempts at not just a law that would prevent flag burning, but desecration of the symbol in any form. The reality is that Congress indeed, passed a “Flag Protection Act” in 1968. This federal law eventually led to 48 of the 50 states adopting similar laws. In 1989 however, the Supreme Court stated the laws were an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. That decision was reaffirmed a year later. This left the only alternative to prevent flag desecration in the form of a constitutional amendment. Those efforts continued every year from 1995 to 2005, the year Hilary Clinton sponsored the bill.
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