The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Resolved: American governments should not legislate against burning American flags in protest.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/5/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,371 times Debate No: 24586
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (13)
Votes (1)




The first round is for the acceptance of the resolution.


I believe the United States federal government should legislate against burning American flags in protest.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting my debate, and I stand on the PRO in this resolution. Before continuing, I would like to establish the following observations in this debate:

Observation 1: Flag burning done in protest is a form of flag desecration, and while it is a specific form, flag desecration in general emphasizes the same message. Therefore, flag burning can be included in the general term of flag desecration if either side decides to call it as such.
Observation 2: Because this debate takes place in context of the United States and a "should" is placed within the resolution in a question about legislation, the American Constitution is applicable if not necessary to speak on behalf of in this resolution in order to evaluate whethere flag descration should be banned.

With these parameters established, I move toward the contentions for this round.

Contention 1: Flag desecration prohibitions are an undue inhibition of American civil rights.
Arguing in the sense of the American Constitution and free speech, flag desecration prohibitions are a violation to both. Henceforth, the prohibitions are contradictory to the foundational document of the United States in the sense of what guarantees rights in the country, providing reason why desecration should not be prohibitted.

Sub-point 1a: Flag desecration prohibitions limit free speech and force patriotism.
Flag desecration prohibitions stop the expression of an idealism through the use of a symbol. Main reasons as to why flag desecration prohibitions are done are because some are offended by the image, including members of Congress. This is a ridiculous reason in order to attempt to justify such prohibitions. "
The following can be attributed to Terri Ann Schroeder, Senior Lobbyist with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:"Today's vote was a victory not for the flag, but for lawmakers seeking cheap political points. The flag is a symbol, and today's vote is an assault on the freedoms that it embodies. In a democracy, freedom means that we must tolerate all peaceful forms of expression, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel, or how much we disagree. Lawmakers cannot silence individuals just because they don't agree with their message or how it is expressed.""

Sub-point 1b: The Constitution protects or would protect such expression.
Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles explains the following on the Founding Fathers and their intention with expression of ideals through symbols in the American Constitution:

The Framers were working within a late 18th century common-law legal system that generally treated symbolic expression and verbal expression the same. Speech restrictions -- such as libel, slander, sedition, obscenity and blasphemy -- covered symbolic expression on the same terms as verbal expression.

Many cases and treatises, including Blackstone's "Commentaries" published in 1765 and often cited by the Framers' generation in America, said this about libel law. And early American court cases soon held the same about obscenity and blasphemy. Late 18th and early 19th century libel law cases and treatises gave many colorful examples: It could be libelous to burn a person in effigy, send him a wooden gun (implying cowardice), light a lantern outside his house (implying the house was a brothel), and engage in processions mocking him for his supposed misbehavior.

This equality of symbolic expression and verbal expression was also applied to constitutional speech protection as well as to common-law speech restrictions. For instance, the first American court decision setting aside a government action on constitutional free speech or free press grounds (Brandreth v. Lance in 1839) treated the liberty of the press as covering paintings -- not just words.

Supreme Court has in two instances voted for the unconstitutionality of flag desecration prohibitions:
-Texas v. Johsnon (1989)
-United States v. Eichman (1990)

Contention 2: Prohibitions against flag desecration have no practicality.
In the end of the day, there really are no practical or vital reasons as to why these prohibitions should stand and only end up increasing the amount of money taxpayers must pay in order to process people through the criminal justice system.



Since my opponent is upholding the Pro in this debate, it makes sense that he has the burden of proof. The case must also be prima facie. Voters should not necessarily vote upon the attacks of the Con, but rather whether the Pro can provide recent and applicable arguments against legislating against the burning of American flags, a symbol of both history and world freedom. For my opponent I give the following attacks.

In response to my opponents Contention one, I offer the following:
My opponent has forgotten a very important part of the Constitution, and that being treason is punishable by death. While I agree with my opponent that American civil liberties are important and must be upheld in the most reasonable ways, flag burning is not one of those ways. Now I must comment on the fact that I also agree with your source Mr. Volokh, only to the extent that the Framers were writing in a 18th century common-law legal system. This leads to the point that death over the treason that is flag burning is extreme. Most Americans would agree the punishment of death for flag burning violates the 8th Amendment, and an appropriate punishment should be decided upon. Thus legislation should begin against those that desecrate the flag to be deemed with an appropriate consequence. One can see that the Constitution would not protect those that burn the flag by any means. There are many ways one can protest the United States government without burning the symbol behind it. In no way are the most common forms of protest or speech restricted. The symbol stands for more than just current policies but a history, a people, and a great nation that stands for freedom.

In response to my opponents final contention:
Prohibitions against flag desecration has definite practicality. With modern times and globalization, the media will largely publicize the American people that act out against its government giving them their largely pointless "15 minutes of fame" and in the process hurting our global image and undermining our soldiers involved in foreign wars. Much like the Occupy movement brought our nation into temporary dishevel. A metaphor to make clear the full argument is that of the sun and the stars. Imagine stars are faithful United States citizens, and the sun a group that takes pleasure in wronging a great nation's symbol. Although at night many see the stars, in the day the media sheds its light upon the rabble rousers known as the sun. Relatively quickly one can no longer see the citizens that make this nation great. Making the United States seem weak and not supportive of foreign policy even if it is an incorrect perception will undermine the nation as a whole.

The next point is in the offense even if perhaps it was covered in previous attacks on my opponents contentions:
The United States government should legislate against the burning of the American flag for principle alone. It is not in a nation's best interest to allow desecration of its most prized symbol. The nation should not allow this for it is like allowing a disrespectful heretic into the Catholic mass. On pure principle, the people that burn a cherished symbol should at the very least be fined, thus saving money on additional police forces that my opponent believed would occur, and generating city revenue upon those that want little do do with the American government and society.

After hearing that the opponents attacks are unfounded because of misinterpretation of the Constitution, that legislating against flag burning is practical, and that the legislation could potentially be beneficial, I urge any who have the pleasure of reading to vote Con at the end of this debate.
Debate Round No. 2


Burden of Proof: This debate is a "should" one where the BOP is shared. The reason being is because the positions of both sides of this debate are making affirmative statements, and the debate requires stacking up reasons on either side of the debate in order to show that flag burning/desecration should or should not be banned.
Treason: In citing the segment of the American Constitution that talks about treason, my opponent leaves out the most important part: what is considered to be treason. On treason, the Constitution defines is as the following: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort," in Article 3, Section 3. This in no way describes flag burning because providing aid and comfort means providing material needs or doing something overt to physically protect enemies of the county [1]. Flag burning, therefore, doesn't fit this description and is Constitutionally not considered to be an act of treason. My opponent really hasn't argued anything I said in this part of my contention. He completely acknowledges that these civil liberties are greatly important but doesn't explain why they don't protect flag burning while I have provided the original Framers' explanation stating that symbols can be used in free speech.
National Interest: This is an easy argument to make counterarguments for because my opponent makes a lot of statements here that absolutely have no warrants of any sort. He doesn't even provide a correlation between flag burnings in the United States and the level of cooperation with the United States for other countries, let alone a causation. All of my opponent's statements here regarding this are completely unfounded.
Principle: My opponent is arguing that the flag should be protected by principle. I'm arguing that the American Constitution should be protected by principle, much more tangible and important than just a flag symbolizing it. The American Constitution is what grants the rights and priviliges of the American people. My opponent argues on protecting the flag just on principle, but this isn't practical in any way, and if people don't agree with the principles that the flag symbolizes, as citizens, they have every right to desecrate it.



DuMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Extend all arguments across the flow.


DuMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


Extend all arguments across the flow. Vote for me.


DuMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by nyyfan 4 years ago
Isn't this a moot point in most places since the synthetic fibers in flags make them illegal to burn publicly anyways?
Posted by ScarletGhost4396 4 years ago
What do you mean escalation?
Posted by jbeaver212 4 years ago
Escalation? I'm thinking about accepting...
Posted by ScarletGhost4396 4 years ago
Yes, CON
Posted by joshuaXlawyer 4 years ago
I wanna accept but which side would I be on? as con?
Posted by AlwaysMoreThanYou 4 years ago
The preferred method for destroying a worn out United States flag, according to the United States flag code, is by burning.

§8 k
Posted by ScarletGhost4396 4 years ago
Yeah, that's why I changed the resolution up a bit to only be flag burning done in protest. lol. Well, that's ONE of the reasons.
Posted by brian_eggleston 4 years ago
Can you guess which group in America burns the most American flags?

The Muslims? The anarchists? No, it's the Scouts. By tradition, when a flag becomes faded or tattered they burn it.

Ban flag burning and you criminalise the Scout movement.
Posted by ldcon 4 years ago
Have you seen one of the videos of a flag burner inadvertently setting fire to themselves?
Posted by ScarletGhost4396 4 years ago
It's a good thing you caught that. I edited the resolution so that no such semantics would be used in that argument. lol
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: FF