On Saturday, President Trump created a new controversy when he tweeted that it was a “no brainer” to have an amendment that would ban the burning of the American flag.
All in for Senator Steve Daines as he proposes an Amendment for a strong BAN on burning our American Flag. A no brainer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2019
However, the situation got heated when conservative activist Candace Owens tweeted that she believed flag burning warrants a loss of citizenship.
If I were President, the punishment for burning the U.S flag would be the renunciation of citizenship.
No jail time, no fine— simply one year to liquidate your assets and get the hell out of our country.
In exchange, we’d extend citizenship to a hardworking LEGAL immigrant.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) June 16, 2019
A Tyrannical Viewpoint
Many people, conservatives included, found this to be too far. Indeed, her comments are too far. Under current law, losing citizenship is an extremely rare circumstance. To lose citizenship, one would have to be found guilty of treason or conspiracy against the U.S. government. One also could choose to renounce their citizenship or serve in another nation’s military.
However, is burning the flag an act of treason against the United States government?
The Principle of Free Speech
Treason is one of only three federal crimes listed in the Constitution. One may think that it is appropriate to make it a crime. Burning a flag, however, is not treason; rather, it is an act of protest. The First Amendment protects the right to peaceful protest, and in 1989, the Supreme Court confirmed that desecrating the flag was protected under the First Amendment. Gregory Lee Johnson had been charged with desecrating the flag during a protest in 1984. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor of Johnson. In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy wrote that,
“The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision.”
It is true that many find the act of burning the flag to be disrespectful. Personally, I agree with this. However, it is protected under the First Amendment. The principle of free speech allows people to say disrespectful things, no matter how controversial it may be.
Candace Owens tried to stand up for herself and stated that the First Amendment has limitations, like yelling fire in a movie theater. However, this is comparing apples to oranges. Justice Oliver Homes stated that free speech does not prevent speech that causes imminent danger or chaos. Whether or not one agrees with this decision, it is obvious that flag burning does not cause imminent danger.
Candace Owens Only Opens Wounds for Conservatives
Candace Owens favors a policy that sounds like it comes from China or North Korea. Candace Owens worked with Turning Point USA, a group that fights for small government and freedom. Yet, none of what she called for is neither small government nor freedom. Her viewpoints tend to hurt the conservative movement as a whole. Though the act of flag burning is despicable, banning it violates the Constitution. Conservatives are supposed to stand for Constitutionalism. Candace Owens is calling for fake conservatism that many people criticize.
The President hurts conservatism by supporting this legislation. Though it is unlikely that this will become a law and pass the Supreme Court, this rhetoric hurts the conservative ideology.
Those who love the flag should not call for legal action. Rather, they should discourage the burning of it. People can dissociate with people who burn the flag and refuse to do business with them. This is the best way to protect both the Constitution and the flag.
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