Bush, Two State Senates Call for Flag-burning Penalties
The Associated Press
Jun. 27, 1989
Undated (AP) _ President Bush and senates in Illinois and California want penalties for desecrating Old Glory, and a town that prides itself as ''Flag City USA'' planned a rally against a U.S. Supreme Court ruling permitting flag burning.
''We take our patriotism very seriously in Findlay,'' said Marjory Buckingham, organizer of a Rally for Flag and Country planned for Thursday in the northwest Ohio city. ''We feel that any desecration of the flag is wrong, and people who burn flags should know how we feel.''
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that burning the American flag as a form of protest is protected by free-speech guarantees.
''If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,'' Justice William J. Brennan said in his opinion for the court.
The U.S. Senate reacted Friday by passing legislation aimed at making desecration of the flag unlawful, and the House may consider a similar resolution this week.
Bush supports legislation prohibiting the desecration of the flag, but has not decided whether to back a constitutional amendement, his spokesman said Monday.
Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Bush ''shares the views of members of Congress and others who have all expressed their feeling that the flag should not be desecrated in any way.''
Bush, who said after the ruling that flag burning is ''dead wrong,'' told The New York Times in an interview published today that he has asked Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Chief of Staff John H. Sununu to recommend ways to circumvent the Supreme Court decision.
Bush said he was ''open-minded'' about how to protect the flag. Lawmakers are divided on whether to offer legislation or seek a constitutional amendment.
In Sacramento, the California Assembly voted 58-2 Monday to ask Congress to amend the Constitution to outlaw flag burning.
''What kind of message are we sending our children when we say it's OK to burn the flag?'' Republican Assemblyman Tim Leslie asked in a debate in which he described his father's death during World War II and displayed the flag used for his father's services.
Democratic Assemblyman John Burton, who opposed the resolution, said ''our country is great because we allow people to be wrong ... and do some stupidly outrageous things.''
In Illinois, the Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday that would make it a felony to intentionally place the flag on a floor. Offenders could receive up to six years in prison. The measure goes to Gov. James R. Thompson.
The bill was one of several proposed in response to an Art Institute of Chicago exhibit that featured a flag on the gallery floor.
The bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Thomas Dunn, said placing the flag on the floor is ''the most insulting thing to do in this country.''
The Senate on Friday also approved a resolution that calls for Congress to take measures to protect the flag from desecration.
In Findlay, about 1,000 people are expected to attend the rally, Ms. Buckingham said.
''It's a hard pill to swallow that the Supreme Court would pass a ruling that would support the burning of the American flag after Americans have given their lives for it,'' said Thomas Mazey, commander of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the Ohio town.