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Flag Desecration Amendment

Although the issue of flag desecration is normally thought of as a free speech topic, it is also a church-state separation topic. Proposals to outlaw desecration of the U.S. flag may reasonably be viewed as blasphemy laws.

Is the American flag a secular symbol or a sacred icon? (1998) by Edward Tabash

What people don’t realize is that it is already illegal to physically damage someone else’s flag or the flag on some government property. Vandalism laws already prohibit damaging someone else’s property. Thus, this amendment would remove constitutional protection for what you do with your own individually owned American flag.

Resurrection of the Flag Desecration Amendment (1999) by Edward Tabash

Congress recently resurrected by a margin of 11-7 in the Senate Judiciary Committee the Flag Desecration Amendment. It now moves on to the full U.S. Senate. The Amendment would substantially weakened the First Amendment by allowing branches of government to punish the physical desecration of one’s personally owned replica of the American flag. This proposed amendment is particularly egregious because, in addition to gutting a core principle of First Amendment jurisprudence on the free speech, it also threatens the church/state separation clauses of the First Amendment. Since this amendment seeks to prohibit desecration, it is essentially a blasphemy law. Desecration is a religious term that applies only when something is deemed sacred. This amendment thus violates the fundamental tenets of a secular society by formally transforming a secular symbol into something sacred.

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