Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Professor should know his flags

In an article title "Burning flag amendment issues" published in the June 30th edition of The Washington Times, Professor John Banzhaf wrote, "A statute criminalizing 'physical desecration of the flag of the United States' would not prohibit protesters from burning something that appears to be - but technically isn't - the U.S. flag. Burning a look-alike flag - for example, one with 49 or 51 stars - would be indistinguishable to most onlookers from burning the flag itself and would have exactly the same effect, but the proposed amendment wouldn't give Congress the power to protect anything beyond the flag."

The professor is apparently unaware that a 49 star flag is "the flag itself". The flag gained its 49th star on 4 July 1959, following the admission of Alaska to the American Union. The 50th star was added on 4 July 1960, following Hawaiian statehood.

According the the United States Code, "The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field" [4 USC §1]; and "On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission" [4 USC §2].

President Eisenhower's Executive Order #10834 (published 25 August, 1959) establishing the pattern for the 50-Star flag, which would become the "official flag of the United States on July 4, 1960", also states "All national in possession of executive agencies...shall be utilized until unserviceable." As a result, the older versions of the flag remain "the flag of the United States".

Republican/libertarian political activist Chuck Muth writes, "Banzhaf is the guy leading the trial lawyer assault on the fast-food industry. You have no idea how I hate to agree with this guy. But when you're right, you're right. Congress should stop wasting its time on this flag-burning amendment and focus on restoring the constitutional private property rights which were struck down in the Supreme Court's Kelo decision." The Kelso case is the recent Supreme Court opinion allowing, as a matter of federal constiututional law, governments to take private property by condemnation, to then be turned over to private developers for a non-governmental use.


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