Flag Burning Amendment Narrowly Fails

With the failure – by just one vote – of the Senate to pass the flag amendment, the Bill of Rights is safe for now. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) appeared on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” this morning to express his disappointment that future generations of Americans may have to suffer under the First Amendment. “I don’t think that burning a flag has much to do with freedom of speech,” said Roberts, who blamed “activist judge[s]” for protecting that form of dissent.

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Sen. Roberts told Robertson that, “[T]o me, that flag means much more than just a flag, and so I get a little irritated when people say, ‘Oh you’re just introducing it to energize your base.’ Well, that base—and a lot of people other than that base—care about the American flag.” Most of us do care about the flag, it’s true—but we care even more about what it represents.

Many conservatives oppose the amendment. The Constitution is “the great shield of democracy,” as Colin Powell said:

We are rightfully outraged when anyone attacks or desecrates our flag. Few Americans do such things and when they do they are subject to the rightful condemnation of their fellow citizens. They may be destroying a piece of cloth, but they do no damage to our system of freedom which tolerates such desecration…

I would not amendment that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be flying proudly long after they have slunk away.

Pat Robertson told the senator that he noticed that all that potential Republican presidential candidates voted for the amendment, while potential Democratic candidates voted against it; however, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, who voted in favor, is still a Democrat.

The good news is that Sen. Roberts expressed little confidence that the amendment would be brought up again soon. The bad news is that 66 United States Senators voted the First Amendment obsolete.