WASHINGTON, DC - Want to make America more like Cuba, Iran, and China? Then encourage the U.S. Senate to pass an anti-flag burning amendment, the Libertarian Party recommended today.
That's because Cuba, Iran, and China - totalitarian regimes where civil liberties are nonexistent - already make "desecrating" their flag a crime.
And, unfortunately, that's the course of action the Senate may follow, in the wake of a House vote on Thursday to amend the Constitution to make flag-burning a crime, said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director.
"Any U.S. Senator who votes to make flag-burning a crime will be following in the shameful footsteps of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, and Mao Tse-tung - and will strike a blow against the liberty that makes America unique," he charged.
"The Senate has a simple choice: Do we want to live in a nation where political dissent - no matter how obnoxious and offensive it may be - is protected by the Constitution? Or do we want to live in a nation where patriotism is enforced by legislation, just like in Cuba, Iran, and China?"
Sometime this summer, the U.S. Senate will vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment to give Congress the power to prohibit the "physical desecration" of the U.S. flag. A similar bill was approved overwhelmingly by the House, 305-124.
If passed by the Senate, the amendment would go to the states for ratification. Already, 49 states have passed resolutions in favor of overturning a pair of Supreme Court decisions which ruled that burning an American flag is political "expression" protected by the First Amendment.
The punishment for "desecration" has yet to be decided, but could range from one year of imprisonment (as mandated in Cuba), to 10 years in jail (as in Iran), to a life sentence at hard labor (as in Haiti, another country that punishes political dissent).
As the U.S. Senate prepares to ponder the issue, said Dasbach, the real question it will face is whether to endorse "flagism" or Constitutionalism.
"The real debate is whether to modify the Constitution to enforce flagism - which is simply the secular worship of a colored piece of cloth - or to defend the Constitution, so it can continue to protect our individual freedoms," he said.
Libertarians have enormous respect for the values the U.S. flag represents, said Dasbach, but understand the way to honor those values is by preserving liberty, not limiting it.
"To Libertarians, a flag is more than a colored cloth design; it's an idea and a vision of the principles we believe in," he said. "You can't destroy an idea by burning a piece of cloth. Flags can always be replaced; principles can't."
And that's why the Senate should stand up for the principles of the U.S. Constitution when the anti-flag burning amendment comes up for a vote, and protect free expression, said Dasbach.
"It is our liberty which makes America the best nation on earth; not the flapping colored cloth adorning our flagpoles," he said. "We urge the U.S. Senate to protect the liberty that made America great - and not follow in the footsteps of Cuba, Iran, and China."