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Respecting Our Flag VS the Bill of Rights
John Ferri, April 28, 1999 -- An open letter to Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Arlen Spector, and Rep. Don Sherwood:
    For the record, I am opposed to the desecration of our flag. I respect it as a symbol of this great nation. However, understand that it is just that -- a symbol, something that represents something else. And in this case, it is the "something else", our First Amendment, that matters to me infinitely more.
    No matter what happens to a flag -- whether it is burned, eaten, painted, or shoved somewhere -- it has no physical effect on me , my family, or the security of our country. Current laws do prohibit others from burning their flag on my property, or others from burning my flag anywhere. However, there are no prohibitions against burning a flag that you own on your property as long as you don't violate local burning ordinances. And none of these are Federal offenses -- yet.
    If the proposed amendment passes, flag burning would be permitted only for the disposal of worn flags. Yet, how would anyone know what is in the mind of someone who appears to be properly disposing of a flag? Under the proposed changes, would someone avowed as anti-government be in violation even if he or she appeared to be properly disposing of a worn flag. Ultimately, it could depend on the state's interpretation of what someone seems to be thinking -- not the ideal situation when our elected officials seem unable to interpret the intentions of their own First Amendment.
    Freedom is never free; it is the most costly right that we have. My freedom of expression is only valid as long as everyone has that same freedom. Those who would burn the flag in protest are destroying only cloth -- not the concepts represented by this great symbol. But modify the Bill of Rights, and these concepts are desecrated more than any flag burner ever could.
Sincerely, John L. Ferri