- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2000

The 1989 Supreme Court decision defining flag-burning as speech should outrage every American, flag-burners as well as flag-waivers. That decision defiled our sacred Constitution and no American should stand still for that. After the decision, 90 percent of the Congress voted for a statute which would have corrected the Court's erroneous flag decision. The Court struck it down.

Soon the Senate will vote on an amendment, passed overwhelmingly by the House, which would nullify the Supreme Court's distortion of the First Amendment and restore our right to protect our flag. This was a right we enjoyed since our nation's birth, a right defended by four chief justices and other justices on five Supreme Courts in the last century. It is a right demanded by some 80 percent of the people and for which 49 states have petitioned the Congress.

James Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights, denounced flag-burning and so did his colleague Thomas Jefferson. Justice Hugo Black said: "Our Constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by each successive wave of new judges blown in by each successive political wind." He also said: "It passes my belief that anything in the Federal Constitution bars making the deliberate burning of the American flag an offense."

Are we to believe this mighty armada of flag defenders is intellectually and morally inferior to the squad of elites in the media, the ACLU, or the one justice majority on one Supreme Court, who twisted the First Amendment to include flag-burning? Flag-burning is not speech and we should not allow it to be protected by polluting our Constitution.

Larry King recently reacted incredulously to the suggestion that the Supreme Court was not the final arbiter on the Constitution. In fact, it is not. The people are. One Supreme Court ruled slavery constitutional. The people overruled that Court through the amendment process, a process designed by the Founders to protect us from a tyranny of the courts or any other unelected minority.

The president himself has said the Supreme Court made a mistake. Tragically, he is like too many politicians who agree the Court erred, but are unwilling to do anything about it; or like Mr. King, believe nothing can be done. As always, the battle to protect our Constitution is left to "We the People."

The Constitution is our only protection against tyranny. It is the source of our virtue as a people, a virtue which gives us the strength to prevail over any external, or internal, enemy on this planet. Our veterans did not swear allegiance to a king or a queen or a dictator or a party. They swore allegiance to the Constitution, a set of values. The values in the Constitution reflect the ideals and vision of our Founders, ideals that are timeless, visions that should not be hacked away by passing political hacks.

Many who assault our Constitution were trained on the playing fields of the elite and most have never seen a battlefield. Their battle cry is that toleration for offensive and evil conduct is essential to freedom, that pornography is protected speech but prayer is not. They are masters of psychological warfare. They know if they can change the language, they can change our minds. They rant and rave about civil liberties and never mention civil responsibilities. Their armor is a distorted First Amendment.

Their target is the Constitution. They are determined to mold it to their perverted political agenda, never mind the ideals of its authors. The enemy these elites fear most is an informed, alert, active populace. A victory for an amendment which would return to the people the right to protect their flag would be a devastating defeat. It would convert the battlefield from courtrooms to living rooms and start a slippery slope which would allow the people to recapture their Constitution.

Abraham Lincoln warned, "Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties." The Supreme Court has interfered with our Constitution. However we may differ on flag-burning, we must agree that we are what we are because of the Constitution as envisioned by the Founders, not the legal elite. We should be outraged, energized and mobilized against those who seek to despoil that cherished document for their own selfish ends.

We the people have all taken a vow to safeguard our Constitution. Veterans did it when they raised their hands and swore an oath to protect and defend it from all enemies foreign and, tragically, domestic. Our children do it daily when they raise their hands to their hearts and recite the pledge, and both the oath and the pledge are taken in the presence of our flag.

Our oath as veterans and pledge as civilians demands that we correct the errors of the Court. That is the objective of the flag amendment and the millions of Americans who support it. The courts are forcing us to accept flag-burning; we are not trying to force the people to love Old Glory. We are trying to force the courts to restore the truth to our Constitution.

Retired Maj. Gen. Pat Brady is a Medal of Honor recipient and the chairman of the Citizens' Flag Alliance.

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