The Instigator
thegreats
Con (against)
Losing
43 Points
The Contender
verbivore
Pro (for)
Winning
46 Points

Flag Desecration Act

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,442 times Debate No: 329
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (31)
Votes (27)

 

thegreats

Con

I find no reason for the flag desecration act. It violates the first amendment and with the use of the word desecration, the separation of church and state. More specifically the law bans the burning of flags, but I am open to arguing the right to by any means ruin flags as well. The act goes against the constitution and what America means. Flag desecration does not afflict violence more than television and it is selective enforcement to arrest someone. You would be arresting them for their state of mind which is completely illegal in itself.
verbivore

Pro

Just because we have freedom of speech does not mean that we should ignore common sense and civility. The flag deserves special legal protection because it is a symbol of our history and heritage. Our flag is an important symbol of democracy. Allowing Americans to burn it insults the millions of citizens who have fought and died for our freedom...ironically, even our freedom of speech. Using flag-burning as protest should not be considered a legitimate form of expression because it doesn't invite any sort of debate. All it does is announce one's hatred and rebellion towards our country. In a sense they are "burning their rights." Anyone disrespectful enough to burn this symbol of freedom shouldn't be to upset to lose some of theirs.

All citizens will not respect this country but hopefully they will at least respect those who died to help give us that choice.
Debate Round No. 1
thegreats

Con

First, thank you for replying.

Common sense and civility have a place in the law, but not that of personal insult or opinion. The flag is burned by boy scouts as a sign of respect. Who is the government to say that the respect boy scouts give, and protesters take away is for the law to decide, again this is selective enforcement? It is almost as bad as arresting some one because of their race or gender. You arrest someone for their state of mind and it is nothing but illegal. You go on to say that the flag is a symbol of our history and democracy. Here I will agree. The American flag is a symbol of democracy, liberty, history, and America, but the constitution IS all of these things. If you take away the right to burn the flag, you are just burning the constitution which, personally I think is more offensive.

Allowing Americans to burn a flag, yes, insults millions. Racism also insults millions. Comments made in debates like these and across the nation insults millions, but it's what the constitution gives us: the right to speak freely, that allows this insult. Insulting the flag is the only thing that allows us to praise the flag. It's like saying "I want to rid the world of its wrong." If you do that, the right vanishes as well.

You say "using flag-burning as protest should not be considered a legitimate form of expression because it doesn't invite any sort of debate" which is a good point, but I think the fact we are debating right now: me for the right, for the image of a burning American flag and you against it is fact enough this is a level of debate. A symbolic level, but still one you can reply to in the form of argument.

Those who burn a flag in protest are not" burning their rights", they are exercising them. And as for the lose of freedom for the disrespect of it. I think protesters burning the flag are even more aware of their rights. They are even more aware of the America allowing them to do this.

The simple fact is, though I wouldn't because I have the respect, right now I could write a long comment about how the military is ineffective and it would very much and I'm sure you would agree be within my rights. If I flat out say that, what is the difference between symbolic disrespect and speaking disrespect?
verbivore

Pro

Desecration is the act of depriving something of its sacred character -- or the disrespectful or contemptuous treatment of that which is held to be sacred by a group or individual. (widipedia) Granted a pandora's box would be opened if laws were passed making desecration itself a crime. However, a country should have a law against the descration of it's flag or other symbol of nationalism. I am totally for freedom of speech, but must one desecrate a sacred symbol to make a point? It's quite childish actually. Not much different then the child who has no language to express his frustration so instead he bites another or destroys the other kid's toy merely because he didn't get his way. Those that burn the flag on the most part lack adequate language to express their hatred so they feel they must burn something that matters so much to the others.

As far as the boy scouts burning the flag, you are correct, it is an act of respect. Burning someone alive is quite different than cremating a dead body. The boy scouts are merely "cremating" a flag that is retired, that can no longer be flown due to being worn or tore. It all comes down to intent. Protestors are burning the flag out of hatred. What about "hate" crimes? If someone hangs a noose it can be classified as a hate crime as it is portraying hatred toward a certain group. The intent is to scare or intimidate those represented by that noose. Should not burning the flag also be considered a threat? Are they trying to intimidate a whole country? I know the military displays the a flag on their uniforms...should they not feel threatened by these flag burners? I know this is an extreme example as the noose is actually more threatening as people in the past were actually killed with them. However, how do we know that some of these flag burners may not psych out and decide to set fire to those who wear them?
Debate Round No. 2
thegreats

Con

First, wikipedia, not being the most credible source is still correct in their definition. Flag desecration does imply sacredness and with words of this sort, the aspect they are arguing that the symbol is sacred and needs to be protected because of this sacredness is a violation of the separation church and state. You say a country should have laws against it, but even without the outstanding constitution America has, lots of countries allow their citizens to burn flags. This isn't a debate about whether or not Americans SHOULD burn flags. This is a debate about the act, which restricts the rights you say the flag gives America. Flags don't give rights, they symbolize them. The constitution gives Americans rights and ridding us of that it so much worse then burning a symbol. People don't have to desecrate a symbol to prove a point, my argument is that they can. Again, with the child, I don't think people should flags. Words are more effective, but the simple truth is that the fact we that have that right to express ourselves, separates us from countries that do outlaw flag burning. Countries like China and the practices of the Soviet Union. Every country has a symbol. It not that symbol that you fight behind. It's what the symbol means: that Americans are free, that America should not be afraid of their own government because they give rights that they won't threaten to take away. That is the symbolism of the American flag. That is America. That you shouldn't be afraid to stand or fight behind that noble truth of justice: that all men(people) are created equal.

As for your reply to my comments on the boy scouts, you basically repeated what I said. Boy scouts give respect, I concede that they do. And protesters, if they burn flags, take that respect away, I also concede to this. But the definition of arresting someone for burning a flag when millions use commercialized flag accessories and the boy scouts even burn a flag is SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT. Why not arrest people who burn the flag in general? It goes to the state of mind of the person burning the flag. It says that because some people think one thing, you can arrest them for it and not arrest people who think another thing. If implemented the flag desecration act prohibits, just that, flag desecration which comes in many forms, some of which, are blatantly ignored. This going to the state of mind is exactly like judging someone for their race, gender, orientation, etc. This time you are doing for what they think and express that differs from one view of the debate.

As for scaring people who stand behind flags or wear flags for the matter. I say, wear it with pride. Wear it, stand behind it, defend it for what it means: that liberty and justice and democracy are close to your heart, but closer is the idea of freedom. The idea that you can stand up and vouch for your beliefs, unafraid the government will jeopardize this. The level of rights America gives you is why you fight. And it's why I say we cannot prohibit any kind of expression that neither incites violence nor hurts people physically in an unconstitutional manner.

And in closing I would just like to say this: that America's symbol isn't a flag. America's symbol is one of its citizens exercising their right to burn that flag. That is when you can call this the land of the free, when you can say proudly, you are American.

I would like to point out you didn't respond to several of my arguements above, if you would like to take your third round to do this, be my guest,

Thank you, so much, for this debate. It's been a good one.
verbivore

Pro

Selective enforcement. So what if it is? As with many laws there are exceptions to rules. The act could state a clause that only the Boy Scouts could continue the tradition or the act could require that the Boy Scouts should no longer be able to burn the flag as well. BUT as with many laws and acts there are clauses of exceptions. Say you are speeding....if the cop stops you and sees that your pregnant wife is in labor in the back seat or your grandpa is having a heart attack he/she is not only likely to let you go but is probably going to escort you to the hospital himself. However, it's not likely that the same cop is going to let you off for speeding just cause you are in a hurry to get to work or just to see how fast your car will go. Once again it goes back to intent. When someone is tried for murder intent has to be determined before punishment is applied. Was it planned? Was it self defense? Is the person mentally competent? Yes, these too are extreme examples BUT the same sort of rules could be applied to the Flag Desecration Act...what is the person's intent? I know it sounds crazy but a case by case basis would be the best.

A police officer doesn't arrest people based on what they "think" but on how they are acting. You can think whatever you want. One can express how much they hate certain people all they want but it's when they act out on this hate and physically harm or even kill that person that they are charged for a crime.
Burning the flag is an Act...not just a thought..therefore they would not be punished for a state of mind but for what they did.

I'm sure everyone realizes that it's not the symbol we fight for. Geez, I know I wouldn't fight for a mere piece of cloth. I fight for what it represents. That's the whole point of symbolism. Something visible to represent something not so tangible...like freedom, heritage, love.

How can one determine whether or not burning the flag incites violence? Almost anything can incite violence if a person get offended enough. As far as fighting because of the level of freedoms we are giving...there are men and women in other countries who are just as passionate about fighting for their country and they don't have a fraction of the rights we do.

And whatever do you mean when you state that America's symbol is not the American flag but instead someone burning the flag? American's symbol(s) have traditionally been the American Flag among a few other things like the Bald Eagle and the Liberty Bell. However, I do know what you are trying to say. That those burning the flag represent how free we really are. Amazingly those in uniform do continue to fight for freedom...even those freedoms that threaten to destroy the great nation we started out as.

In order to debate the Act isn't it plausible to state why Americans should or should not burn the flag? I'm new at this so I'm not really sure how else to go about it. I probably didn't address all your arguments but I need to sign off now. It was a pleasure debating with you!
Debate Round No. 3
31 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by blond_guy 9 years ago
blond_guy
hahah lied us into WWII? I won't even argue this because whoever is against the U.S.'s involvement in WWII MUST be mentally unstable
Posted by thegreats 9 years ago
thegreats
"Liberal Democrats provoked and lied us into WWI, WWII, and Vietnam." What?
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
The last time anyone fought to defend this country was in 1812. Liberal Democrats provoked and lied us into WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. And liberal Republicans have lied us into wars in the Middle East. The government is a much greater threat to my freedom than a band of unwashed savages, half a world away. The Founders recognized that the government itself is the greatest threat to liberty, and that's why they sought to keep it limited. The military-industrial complex has the opposite aim.
Posted by MarineCorpsConservative 9 years ago
MarineCorpsConservative
clsmooth, you said

"I'm sorry, MCC, but you were not fighting for me."

If it were not for military men and women you wouldn't have the rights that you do now. Nobody likes war but it will always happen and there will be men and women there to fight to keep your rights.
Posted by Devils_Advocate 9 years ago
Devils_Advocate
MCC: <<You are debating on the first amendment but i cannot say that a law should be passed for a veteran to "kick the crap" out of anyone who burns the flag?>>

Of course you can say that. You have that right from the Constitution. Just as I have the right to say I find it unbecoming of a representative of the US Armed Forces.

<<No, that probably wasn't the best wording but it is very frustrating to fight for this country and have friends die beside you while people are back home burning the American Flag that we are supporting.>>

I understand. However, the Constitution does not guarantee you the right to be "not frustrated." It also does not guarantee you the right to be "not offended."

The POWER of the Constitution, however, lies in its guarantee of granting a citizen the privilege of freedom of speech, most importantly when it is dissenting.

As a member of the military, you of all people should understand the principles and rights you are striving to protect.
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
I can definitely see the argument you're making - it just gets a bit sticky when you try to combine it with something like flag burning, because everyone else needs to first assume your interpretation of the Constitution is correct, despite conflicting with current S.C. precedent.

Sorry for the tangent within this debate - no private messaging on this site for some reason.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
Kevin: I do not accept the Supreme Court as the sole interpretor of the Constitution. The Supreme Court itself decided that it was, and it lacked the authority to do so.

There are laws that are unconstitutional. That doesn't stop them from being laws. But it stops them from being legitimate laws.

I read the Constitution, literally, and in consideration of the Original Intent. Therefore, while I strongly oppose restrictions on speech or co-mingling of religion and government at any level of government, I do not believe that the First Amendment applies to anyone but Congress. The wording is clear: "Congress shall make no law." It does not say, "These rights may not be infringed upon by any level of government." And nothing in the 14th amendment says that either. The "liberal" interpretation of the 14th is manufactured wholly out of thin air.

And finally... The 14th amendment was not legitimately ratified, and thus, is not applicable to my understanding of the Constitution. Here are the facts: The 13th amendment, to end slavery, was passed and ratified by the states, including the Southern states. But when the 14th came to the state legislatures, the Southern states would not vote for it -- so their government's were deemed illegitimate. If they were legitimate for the 13th, they should have been legitimate for the 14th.

Although I agree with the principles of the 14th, I feel it took too much power away from the states and put it in the hands of the federal government. But my belief in the goodness of the 14th has nothing to do with my belief that it wasn't properly ratified. There are "conspiracy theories" about the 16th amendment, for example, which I do not buy into even though I am opposed to the 16th amendment -- I accept it as legitimate. However, few will seriously argue that the 14th amendment was properly ratified.
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
If we're talking about current precedent, the First Amendment does not just apply to laws made by Congress, and states cannot pass anti-free speech laws. Most of the rights in the Bill of Rights have been applied to states as well as Congress by incorporation, because of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

You may think those rulings weren't correct, but if we're talking about the current interpretation of the Constitution, the First Amendment (and specifically freedom of speech) most certainly applies to states as well as Congress.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
The First Amendment applies to laws made by Congress. That's it. So The First Amendment protects speech that YOU think is disgraceful, and I think is disgraceful. But it doesn't compel you to respect my speech, or me to respect yours. And it doesn't compel the owner of this site to allow us to post here, either. In fact, there's nothing unconstitutional about states making anti-free speech laws, so long as they don't violate the state constitutions. So to clear things up: There's literally no way I can infringe on your First Amendment rights, as I am not an agent of the federal government.

I'm sorry, MCC, but you were not fighting for me. My tax dollars funded the war, but I surrendered them involuntarily, under the threat of imprisonment.

Why don't we fund wars voluntarily?
Posted by MarineCorpsConservative 9 years ago
MarineCorpsConservative
oh i know "devils advocate", i am so disgraceful to say what is on my mind. You are debating on the first amendment but i cannot say that a law should be passed for a veteran to "kick the crap" out of anyone who burns the flag? No, that probably wasn't the best wording but it is very frustrating to fight for this country and have friends die beside you while people are back home burning the American Flag that we are supporting. Sorry for being disgraceful and fighting for you. I acknowledged that i might have used improper wording. Your turn.
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