The Book of Ron Paul
1997 Ron Paul Chapter 62

Flag Burning Amendment

12 June 1997

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Congressional Record (Page H3733)   Cached

Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Paul].
Mr. Chairman. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes.

1997 Ron Paul 62:1
Mr. PAUL. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

1997 Ron Paul 62:2
Much has been said about this issue being a freedom of expression issue, and it certainly is. Obviously, the American Legion that burns the flag does it differently than the hoodlum on the street, so it does involve an expression of some ideas; so we are limiting that ability for any individual to make this expression.

1997 Ron Paul 62:3
And I am convinced that this is historic. This is the first time that we have worked hard in undermining the Bill of Rights. And some have said that the First Amendment can’t be absolute, but in some ways it can be. What you say and do in your home and in your church should be absolute, and you should be able to say and do things.

1997 Ron Paul 62:4
The restrictions on speech is when we get involved in lying and slandering and doing harm that way. Yes, then there is a limitation. But that’s different. When we’re in our churches, we should have absolute right of freedom of speech.

1997 Ron Paul 62:5
But there’s more to this than freedom of expression. I see this as a property rights issue. And that’s why I am so disappointed with some of my colleagues who have pushed this as an amendment, because this is an attack on property rights. The question seems to be asked very rarely but should be asked: Who owns the flag?

1997 Ron Paul 62:6
If somebody burned the flag, who owns the flag? They’re saying everybody owns it. How does that happen? Can’t we buy a flag anymore? Do we believe in collectivism now; that everybody owns the flag and everybody is responsible for it, and we will all do exactly as we are told? That is not part of our system.

1997 Ron Paul 62:7
We guarantee the right of free speech through property rights, through the reverence that we give to our churches or our radio stations or our newspapers. But nobody has the right to march into our church and preach any religion to us or march into a newspaper or march into a radio station. So in this case we are dealing with a piece of property that should be respected as property. And I think we are attacking that just as much as anything else.

1997 Ron Paul 62:8
Also, it is disappointing to see that this amendment is actually worse than the last amendment that came to this House floor, because at least the last amendment recognized that maybe the States could write regulations. Under the original Constitution, in the original intent of the Constitution, it would have been permissible for States to write regulations of this sort. It was our courts that have come in and started to overregulate freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

1997 Ron Paul 62:9
For instance, I am quite comfortable in agreeing with the Istook amendment. I think the courts, because again, we have lost the concept of property in our public schools. You know, in a private school we know what we are allowed to do. But in a public school everything becomes fuzzy. So the courts come in and say, all of a sudden, oh, you can’t even have a voluntary prayer.

1997 Ron Paul 62:10
So the Istook amendment approach is completely opposite of what we are doing here, because this is restriction of expression, it’s a restriction on the private property ownership, and it really attacks the Ninth and Tenth Amendment. Because before, even where the States had been permitted to write laws, they are not permitted under this legislation. Only the Congress shall make the laws.

1997 Ron Paul 62:11
I thought we were supposed to make the Federal Government smaller as conservatives, not bigger. Here we are adding a new role for the BATF. We have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and we are going to have a BATFF in order for those individuals to go out and regulate the flag use. And this is Federal.

1997 Ron Paul 62:12
Just think of how the RICO laws may apply to this. One individual in one group may do something wrong; everybody in that group can be held guilty for that. What if there happens to be someone in there that has done it deliberately in order to get at the group? Could there be entrapment? Has our FBI ever been known to do this?

1997 Ron Paul 62:13
I think it’s a rather dangerous thing that we are doing. Why are we so fearful? Why are we so fearful? It is implied at times that if we do not endorse this amendment we’re less patriotic than the others. I think that’s wrong to imply that we might be less patriotic. From my vantage point, of having been involved in politics for a few years, the real attack are on our liberties. The real attack in this institution is the attack on the Constitution, and this does nothing to address it.

1997 Ron Paul 62:14
It’s almost like window dressing. We’re upset and feel guilty and we’re in a mess and cannot do anything. Ahah! All we need to do is pass a flag amendment and it’s going to solve the problem of the attack on the Constitution, which is continuous and endless. We do not need more legislation like this. We do not need an amendment to the Constitution that will, for the first time, alter the Bill of Rights.

1997 Ron Paul 62:15
I really think those individuals who are pushing this have courage to get out front and say yes, for the first time, we will curtail the authority or the expressions and the rights of the Bill of Rights.

1997 Ron Paul 62:16
And I yield back.


1997 Ron Paul 62:3
first amendment as shown in Congressional Record has been capitalized here: First Amendment.

1997 Ron Paul 62:7
Here, the C-Span coverage skips about 10 seconds, from 11:57:49 to 11:57:59 local time.

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