American Hero John Glenn Urges Senate to Reject Constitutional Amendment to Punish Protestors

April 28, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, April 28, 1999

WASHINGTON — American hero John Glenn urged the Senate today to reject the “Flag Desecration Constitutional Amendment,” as both the House and Senate continued their rapid, coordinated effort to pass the amendment.

Glenn’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee — along with that of fellow veterans Bob Kerrey (D-NE) and John Chafee (R-RI) — came at the same time the House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on the amendment. Today’s hearing will be quickly followed by a vote tomorrow by the full Senate Judiciary. These are the last steps prior to a full floor vote in both chambers, which leaders are expected to hold quickly — possibly even before Memorial Day.

“John Glenn today makes it clear that a vote against this constitutional amendment is truly an act of patriotism,” said Terri Schroeder, a legislative analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The constitutional amendment, SJ Res 14, and HJ Res 33, would allow the prosecution of protestors, artists, and others who “desecrate” the American flag. The vague term “desecration” could encompass a broad range of actions, said the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently represented a World War II veteran threatened with arrest in Oklahoma for flying his own American flag upside down.

“For more than 200 years the First Amendment has protected Americans’ right to criticize their government, and because of it, our country bears the torch of freedom across the globe,” Schroeder said. “There is no reason to now adopt the first exception to Americans’ free speech rights.”

The ACLU said proponents of the constitutional amendment are seeking to downplay its effect. Amendment supporters stated at last week’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that they only want protestors who “desecrate” the flag to receive tickets and go to “flag education classes.”

“They can’t deny that states currently have laws allowing the arrest and imprisonment of people who ‘desecrate’ the flag, and that those laws will become enforceable the moment this amendment becomes part of our Constitution,” Schroeder said.

Senator Glenn’s testimony can be found at:

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