Americans have much to be proud of. We enjoy a greater measure of liberty, justice, and equality than any other country throughout history. There is one symbol that, above all others, encapsulates the history and values we hold dear: the American flag. From the time we’re schoolchildren, we honor our flag and all it stands for with hand over heart and a deep appreciation for the blessings we enjoy as Americans.
In times of crisis, the raising of the Stars and Stripes symbolizes perseverance and enduring strength. Whether it’s Marines struggling to plant the flag on Iwo Jima or firefighters lifting the flag above the ruins of the World Trade Center, patriotic Americans have always taken heart in knowing that "our flag was still there."
Enemies of American freedom abroad are well aware of the ideals emblemized by the American flag, often expressing anti-American sentiments by burning our flag. Unfortunately, almost 20 years ago the Supreme Court essentially ruled in favor of allowing flag burning here at home. In a 1989 decision that overturned 200 years of precedent, the court struck down all laws that prohibit flag desecration.
The vast majority of Americans — 80 percent — and all 50 of our state legislatures believe the flag should be protected. Given the misguided Supreme Court ruling, the only way we can protect the flag is through amending the Constitution.
Before Congress adjourns to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, I intend to bring the Flag Protection Amendment to the floor. The proposed amendment is a simple, one-sentence statement that reads: "The Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
As Harvard Law professor Richard Parker explains: "The amendment process is essential to the Constitution’s deepest foundation — the principle of popular sovereignty affirmed in its first words, ‘We the people.’ Making use of this process reaffirms and thus preserves that foundation."
Opponents of the measure claim flag burning should be protected as an exercise of free speech. To these individuals, I would ask: Is defacing a government building speech? No, it is considered a criminal act of vandalism. By the same token, burning the flag is not a form of constructive speech but an act of physical assault. America is the freest country in the world, and its citizens have the right to express dissent in myriad ways. Exercising one’s right to free speech by destroying the very icon of that right need not be one of them.
We pledge our allegiance to the flag with the words "one nation, under God." But burning the flag is a deeply divisive act that shows contempt for all that unites us as Americans.
The Constitution itself supplies the appropriate remedy through the amendment process, and I believe it is fitting to use that process to restore the ability of Congress to protect the flag that countless brave men and women have died defending.
I look forward to debating the Flag Protection Amendment on the Senate floor. And I am hopeful that Congress will support the wishes of the majority of American citizens by voting to protect this noble symbol of our common heritage.
Do you support a constitutional amendment protecting the American flag? Click here to cast your vote now.