Senate Hearing: Waving the Flag, Not Saving It

Washington, DC – People For the American Way (PFAW) President Ralph G. Neas today condemned congressional efforts to revitalize a constitutional amendment to “protect the flag” as a cynical election-year ploy to divert public attention from pressing issues including the economy, weak job growth and a lack of funding for critical programs, including veterans’ health care.

“Waving the stars and stripes is a convenient distraction from tough issues. Platitudes and posturing are easier than real achievements for veterans and working American families,” said Neas.

Neas noted that Congress has already debated and rejected a constitutional amendment on the flag three times, in 1990, 1995, and 2000. Current secretary of State Colin Powell spoke out against a flag amendment to the Constitution in 2000, saying, “I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be flying proudly long after they have slunk away.” An amendment has been opposed by conservative columnist Cal Thomas, Judge Michael McConnell, and decorated veterans who fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War.

As an organization devoted to the protection of free speech and civil liberties, PFAW has sent a letter on behalf of its more than 600,000 activists and members to the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposing the flag amendment.

“While most Americans find desecration of the flag offensive and distasteful, the enduring strength of our nation lies in our ability to tolerate dissent and free speech even when we disagree,” Neas said. “Surrendering to a handful of offensive individuals by limiting our freedoms will not protect the flag. On the contrary, amending the Bill of Rights to censor unpopular speech would dishonor the flag and the freedom it represents.”

The PFAW letter and more information on efforts to pass a constitutional amendment on the flag, can be found at www.flagamendment.org.

“Proponents of a flag amendment want to divert people from the issues that matter – civil liberties, jobs, education, the economy, health care, the war on terror. Using our flag as a distraction and a divisive political wedge is a cynical ploy. It betrays a lack of respect for the flag, and ultimately for the documents that guarantee our freedoms - the Constitution and the First Amendment. The American people deserve better,” he said.

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