Veterans renew call for flag-protection amendment
By The Associated Press
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. A group of veterans says that, in the wake of last year's terror attacks, it's time for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment protecting the U.S. flag from desecration.
The flag is a sacred symbol, and "we think it's even more special after 9-11 than ever in the history of the country," said Larry McKay of Mount Pleasant, who served with the Army in Vietnam.
In July 2001, the House of Representatives, for the fourth time in six years, endorsed the proposed amendment that would authorize Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag.
The vote was 298-125. However, the measure has not made it to the Senate floor this session. In 2000, the Senate voted 63-37 for the proposal, but that was four votes short of the two-thirds needed for a constitutional amendment.
South Carolina's two U.S. senators, Strom Thurmond and Ernest "Fritz" Hollings are both World War II veterans and co-sponsors of the amendment in the Senate.
"The American flag is the most respected symbol of our nation," said Thomas Meteraud, commander of the American Legion in the Charleston area. "The remains of our war dead come home to our soil draped in the American flag."
He says it is an affront to the nation's war dead to allow desecration of the flag.
Opponents of the amendment argue it would be a mistake to limit First Amendment rights to ban an act that rarely occurs.
McKay and Dick Walsh, the vice commander of the American Legion in South Carolina, say they don't want to limit free speech and that they have fought to protect it.
"I can go to Washington, D.C., right now and get a can of spray paint and spray paint on the base of the Washington Monument and I'd be arrested for desecrating a national monument," Walsh said. "Yet I can stand on those same steps near the Washington Monument and take that flag I fought for and shed blood for and set it one fire and nothing would happen to me."
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The Flag Desecration Amendment (2001)
Information on the debate over flag desecration, political expression and the First Amendment.