Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The right not to be offended?

The fervor with which some Americans bellow for a law to criminalize the burning of the U.S. flag embodies a principle that should chill to the core any genuine believer in personal liberties: that there should be a right not to be offended. Essential to understanding our Constitutional rights is the comprehension that a right not to be offended would annihilate them. A person who sees nothing disturbing in an Animal Farm-style interpretation of the Bill of Rights,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion unless I am offended, or prohibit the free exercise thereof unless I am offended; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press unless I am offended; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble unless I am offended ....

is a person who lacks the most fundamental grasp of the significance of the rights that have been bestowed on us and of the meaning of their inalienability.

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Flag desecration is clearly speech that our nation has protected for years. During the 1850s, questions about the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act led activists in Boston like Emerson and William Lloyd Garrison to "hang American flags upside down and mark Independence Day with a public burning of the flag and United States Constitution." [See Thomas J. Brown's "The Fugitive Slave Act in Emerson's Boston."]

America is stronger, braver, and more free today because of these acts! God Bless America.

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