Flags, Skirts, and The First Amendment

Flags, Skirts, and The First Amendment

Rep. Henry Hyde's arguments in favor of the flag-desecration amendment (''Flag-Burning Evokes Larger Issues Than the Flag Itself,'' July 3) clearly shows that instead of promoting free speech, supporters of the amendment hope to restrict it.

When stripped of rhetorical flourishes, his rationale for a ban on flag-burning is simply that ''most Americans'' don't like the message that flag-burning conveys. He apparently wants to suppress the beliefs of some people that the ''sacred status'' of the flag should not be mandatory.

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For free speech to truly exist in America, or elsewhere, there cannot be restrictions on the content of a message.

If an individual or group has the power to say that a particular message is ''out of bounds,'' then no one truly has freedom of speech.

Hyde's recital of what he calls the ''well-defined limits to freedom of speech'' is irrelevant. None of the ''limits'' he lists involves restricting speech because of its content or message, as would a flag-desecration ban.

The proposed amendment is not a response to a national crisis. Rather, it is a transparent attempt to milk public emotion for political gain. I have been a registered Republican since I was old enough to vote, but I reject the cheap cynicism of my party on this issue.

Mark Wylie Los Angeles

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