"The words of the first amendment are simple and majestic:
`Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.`
The proposed constitutional amendment would undermine that fundamental liberty."
- Senator Ted Kennedy, referring to an amendment against burning Old Glory.
Terry Jones, along with his congregation, wants to burn 200 Korans in Florida. All is legal, except that he doesn't have a bonfire permit. In an act of civil disobedience, he intends to continue on, and pay the fines.
Jones is the pastor of a church of around 30-50 people. Despite his church's size, lack of a big budget, he has attraction attention from the world. Green Peace, Act-Up and the Tea Party should all be so lucky.
He is spending $1,800 on the books (Korans priced via Amazon.com), plus the fines, plus the burning materials (gas, wood?), and whatever he will use to put the fire out. In all, he might spend well under $3,000. The attention he has received would impress anyone who looks at the cost of media attraction. For a few dollars, he has forced discussion about some hard issues (hate, war, terrorism, violence), and has politicians trying to talk him out of doing what he believes per his religious convictions what is right. It begets the obvious question of Church and State, but, as of yet, there is no law denying him this expression of speech and faith.
I debated blogging about this. I thought it would merely add to fire, as it were. I remember how Christian friends protested against The Last Temptation of Christ. Noting, though, Angelina Jolie, that great, brilliant statesman with a PhD from Hollywood, has spoken, I decided no small blog would add to the fire.
The flag of the United States is sometimes symbolically burnt, often in protest of the policies of the American government, both within the country and abroad. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that, due to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is unconstitutional for a government (whether federal, state, or municipality) to prohibit the desecration of a flag, due to its status as "symbolic speech."
In 1862, during the Union army's occupation of New Orleans in the American Civil War, the military governor, Benjamin Franklin Butler, sentenced William B. Mumford to death for removing an American flag. In 1864 John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the poem Barbara Frietchie, which told of a, probably fictional, incident in which Confederate soldiers were deterred from defacing an American flag. The poem contains the famous lines:
"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
An upside-down U.S. flag at a Washington, D.C. protest against the Iraq War.During the United States involvement in the Vietnam War American flags were sometimes burned during anti-war protest demonstrations.
In 1983, pornographer Larry Flynt was jailed for 6 months for wearing an American flag as a diaper in court.
Today, defacing a flag is an act of protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as established in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), and reaffirmed in U.S. v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).
After these decisions, several "flag burning" amendments to the Constitution have been proposed. On June 22, 2005, a flag burning amendment was passed by the House with the needed two-thirds majority. On June 27, 2006, the most recent attempt to pass a ban on flag burning was rejected by the Senate in a close vote of 66 in favor, 34 opposed, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to send the amendment to be voted on by the states.
Flying an American flag upside down is not necessarily meant as political protest. The practice has its origin in a military distress signal; displaying a flag in this manner is "a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property"; it has been used by extension to make a statement about distress in civic, political, or other areas. Upside-down flying of the flag was ruled constitutional in Spence v. Washington, a 1974 Supreme Court ruling.
Actions portraying the flag being flown upside down can be witnessed through American rock band Rage Against The Machine, at the Democratic Convention in 2000.
(April 7, 2011: I Support Terry Jones' Freedom of Speech 100% )
Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson