Burning the Flag and Freedom of Speech

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.

Flag burning

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.

  1. #1 by Becky Stauffer on June 2, 2009 - 9:12 pm

    It does seem a bit bizarre to have a flag burning at America’s Freedom Festival. And strange how the exact same act can have two opposite implications: patriotic and unAmerican.

  2. #2 by Weer'd Beard on June 3, 2009 - 3:42 am

    A flag that you can’t legally burn is not a flag worth honoring.

    That being said, no person who has ever burned a US Flag in protest is EVER allowed on my property.

  3. #3 by Steve-O on June 3, 2009 - 10:19 am


    This one’s a stretch…even for you.

  4. #4 by Larry Bergan on June 3, 2009 - 1:39 pm

    I thought we had seen the last of Orrin’s anti flag burning crusade. Sigh.

    • #5 by Richard Warnick on June 3, 2009 - 1:45 pm

      He’s not pushing it lately, but I doubt if he’s given up.

  5. #6 by cav on June 4, 2009 - 9:55 am

    He’s readying a new bill that will make the throwing of shoes unconstitutional.

  6. #7 by Larry Bergan on June 4, 2009 - 11:57 am

    Almost forgot about the second shoe bomber. Those were the days.

  7. #8 by Rico on June 6, 2011 - 10:24 am

    Oh look, another arsonist.

  8. #9 by cav on June 6, 2011 - 2:59 pm

    And at the very moment I seem to have misplaced my violin…

    Flag ‘chapping’ is allowed in the ‘Village’ if there’s an ‘R’ following your name.

  9. #10 by Larry Bergan on June 6, 2011 - 3:22 pm

    How does a pirate pronounce “R”?

    When is Orrin going to throw his hat into the ring?

    Is he…

    or isn’t he?

    THAT is the question!

  10. #11 by cav on June 10, 2011 - 10:25 am

    [CNN:]These days, when you find yourself thinking about Richard Nixon, what comes to mind?

    [Dan Ellsberg]: “Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, might take bittersweet satisfaction to know that he was not the last smart president to prolong unjustifiably a senseless, unwinnable war, at great cost in human life. (And his aide Henry Kissinger was not the last American official to win an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize.)

    He would probably also feel vindicated (and envious) that ALL the crimes he committed against me–which forced his resignation facing impeachment–are now legal.


    [recognizes defeat]

  11. #12 by Quinella on June 11, 2011 - 10:24 am

    These are the kind for folks we are sponsoring a primary source of why we, and the following…have no friends left. Young man has great courage challenging a thug nation that we pay for.

    Why would it be any different over here?


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