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.

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

The article ''Schools Adopt Mandatory Ties, Skirts,'' June 15, raises the ongoing issue of whether or not uniforms should be mandatory in schools.

The proposals are wide-ranging. Supporters believe that problems like gang violence and lack of discipline, among others, can be curtailed or stopped if uniforms are introduced in schools.

Opponents believe it is within students' first amendment right to wear what they choose, if it does not disrupt learning, create ''substantial disorder,'' or infringe on the rights of others.

If students are going to be in gangs, they are going to be in gangs whether they wear uniforms or not. Students identify themselves in groups - if not by clothing then by hairstyles, race, or gender.

Enforcing mandatory student uniforms violates the first amendment and will not solve the underlying problems in today's schools. The problems will resurface until children are brought up with values and morals.

Ann Vlnar Rexburg, Idaho

Humanity's 'oneness' will renew UN

The editorial ''A 21st Century UN,'' June 27, refers to the need of today's ''generation of leaders to work on reinventing the world organization to meet current needs,'' and for citizens to become enthusiastic about the reinventing.

A good question is, how can we become enthusiastic about reinventing the United Nations?

I believe, as millions of others do, that the fundamental spiritual truth of our age is ''the oneness of humanity.''

Political and spiritual leaders, scientists, artists, educators, and especially the media, should take it upon themselves to initiate and carry forward this global enterprise, unitedly and perseveringly.

Barnak Kusha Madison, Wis.

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