Our View: Protecting free speech Our view: Protecting free speech

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Representative John Salazar couldn't have been more correct last week when he said desecration of the flag is absolutely offensive -- seeing an American Flag go up in flames is offensive to most people.

We will never be in favor of a constitutional amendment to restrict freedom of expression, but that doesn't mean that flag burning is the correct approach to political dissatisfaction.

It's offensive to us, too.

But limiting free speech -- even "absolutely offensive" speech -- is inherently un-American.

The right to protest, even using offensive and ineffective methods, always should be protected.

The flag is an important and powerful symbol. Although it doesn't derive its power from Americans saluting and protecting it, it certainly maintains its power from such acts of support.

And it is only a symbol. Desecrating a symbol does not harm the freedoms, rights and sacrifices that symbol has come to mean. Those are inside each person.

The flag's power comes from the rights and privileges it represents.

Those rights, strange as it may sound, include the right to burn a flag in protest.

What makes America a beacon of freedom is that most Americans respect one another's right to free speech. That means allowing someone to speak their minds, even if their words or actions offend us.

A constitutional amendment banning flag burning only will limit the most-important right Americans have. At what point do you draw the line against freedom of expression or protest?

The Supreme Court saw flag burning for what it was in 1989: A form of protected speech.

The High Court's decision to overturn flag burning bans was correct 15 years ago, and it's still correct today.

When Salazar and 285 members of the House voted for the flag burning amendment last week, they voted for a ban that is not only un-American, but also unnecessary.

The United States is fighting a bloody battle in Iraq, Americans are living with no health care, and tariffs are a huge issue. We think that Congress should focus its attention on the issues that are at the root of the American flag -- the freedom to live in a better world.

When you want the government to notice that you're opposed to something that it's done, attacking the symbol is one of the most profound ways to share a political message.

Burning the flag will, in itself, send a message that the public will most likely react to and deal with.

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