Utah’s own Senator Orrin Hatch is perhaps best-known nationally as the sponsor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning, which he has promoted for almost 20 years. “If you’re going to burn our flag, you’re going to pay a price for it,” he says.
Is Senator Hatch aware that a major flag-burning event is being planned in Provo? On the evening of Monday, June 15, a crowd will gather to participate in the burning of hundreds of American flags. This is billed as part of the so-called “America’s Freedom Festival.” People are even being encouraged to bring their own flags, which will be set on fire by members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
How could this happen? According to the U.S. Flag Code, which is a federal law, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning” (36 USC 19 176K). Most often, this service is quietly performed by the American Legion. In Provo, it’s an annual public ritual. “This is a great family event that teaches patriotism and love for the flag,” according to the website.
Senator Hatch’s amendment isn’t really about flag burning at all. It’s intended to empower the government to restrict freedom of speech. To his credit, Senator Bob Bennett opposes the amendment, which failed by a single vote in the Senate on June 27, 2006.
In Orrin Hatch’s America, you would be put in jail with the rest of the DFHs if you burned a flag in protest. Burning hundreds of flags in public at a “patriotic” ceremony would still be perfectly legal, nobody would “pay a price” for doing that. Because some free speech would be government-approved and other free speech would be penalized.