WASHINGTON — The issue of flag-burning has not been as volatile as some politicians anticipated, according to House Speaker Tom Foley. In his home district of Spokane, Wash., he says, his office has received relatively few calls on the flag, and only one-third of those favored the President's proposal for a constitutional amendment barring destruction of the flag. ``Members of Congress are reporting to me their surprise at being home and finding that there is no firestorm of fervor in support of a constitutional amendment,'' Mr. Foley told reporters at a Monitor breakfast on Friday.
Foley supports a new statute against desecration of the flag rather than a constitutional amendment. But political consultants and advisers have been warning Democrats in Congress about the danger of opposing the President's amendment proposal.
Foley says that a third of calls to his home office have favored a statute, a third favored an amendment, and a third no action.
The controversy broke out over a United States Supreme Court ruling June 21 that reversed the conviction of a flag-burner. The basis of the ruling, that flag-burning is symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment, is widely believed to make current statutes barring flag desecration unenforceable.
In some conservative districts - such as those of Reps. William Dannemeyer (R) in California's Orange County and G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D) in Mississippi - the heavy flow of calls and letters on flag-burning ranks it among several top issues of recent years for drawing response. Less than a handful of calls have favored the Supreme Court decision. Most support a constitutional amendment.
Liberal districts report lighter mail, with more mixed opinions. Rep. Don Edwards (D) of California, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, earlier received mail split down the middle for and against a constitutional amendment, according to aide Roberta Haeberle. Now, she says, mail is running 2-to-1 against an amendment.