Justice Kennedy quote

According to the San Francisco Chronicle (11-5-2006), regarding a 2000 Nebraska abortion case, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy took “an emotion dissenting opinion” in which he said that states should be able to outlaw

“A procedure many decent and civilized people find so abhorrent as to be among the most serious of crimes against human life.”

Whether you happen to support or oppose abortion rights, there’s something horribly flawed in this argument that threatens all of us. To read it coming from a Justice of the Supreme Court is disturbing, to say the least.

Logically, the argument for outlawing anything “that most people find abhorrent” can be used against anything. Historically, we find it used to support, among other things: ethnic cleansing, anti-gay laws, racism, and suppression of forms of free speech with which some people do not agree.

Not only can it be used for these things, it is. One can only imagine a future civilization which strongly supports a woman’s right to her own body. In such a society, do you think people with strong anti-abortion views should be criminalized for attacking popular civil liberties?

There’s a good reason why there’s no room in the Constitution for emotional litmus tests. They short-circuit the requirement of tying the law to established constitutional rights. Depending on the shifting quicksand moods and whims of public opinion, you could end up being the victim of such “reasoning”. What a shame to see this rhetoric coming from the highest bench seat in the land.

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Burning The Flag

I received a thoughtful note from a reader who indicated that we have had many men die in so many unnecessary wars, to protect the flag, our symbol of freedom. I spelled out my thinking:

Hi, thanks for writing. I appreciate your position.

Actually, what I meant was that the freedoms for which our flag stand are more important than the symbol itself. So, if we had to choose between defending those freedoms, and defending our flag, we should choose defense of our freedoms.

So I and many people actually believe we had so many innocent men die in wars that were not necessary to begin with (and some wars that were necessary), to protect our freedom of speech.

It is a shame for people to choose to attack such a fine and honored symbol as our flag. But better we let them do it, in exercise of their constitutionally protected rights of free speech, than that we become like the dictators and unjust rulers who outlaw criticism of their governments.

So, I don’t like the idea of people burning the flag either. I never did. But, I would fight to defend a country that defended their opinion as strongly as my opinion. I don’t think I would fight to defend a country that wanted to put protesters in jail.


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Flag Amendment – Here We Go Again

Like poison oak and Montezuma’s Revenge, there are some things that just won’t go away. According to the American Civil Liberties Union:

With several Senators absent due to presidential campaigns, sickness or the aftermath of Hurricane Frances, the Republican Senate leadership is planning to slip in a vote on the flag desecration amendment¬† – a measure that would not otherwise pass. But due to these absences, this proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which has already passed in the House — has a real chance of passing in the Senate…

The flag desecration amendment would alter the First Amendment for the first time. Civil libertarians, coalitions of veterans, religious leaders and other Americans have been vocally opposing this un-American initiative for many years, but its supporters have been waiting for a moment like this to slip it through…

Click here to get more information and to take action:


Following is my own response to my congressional representatives:

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA )
Barbara Boxer (D-CA )
As your constituent, I urge you to oppose HJ Res. 4/SJ Res. 4, a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the flag. This legislation would undermine the very principles for which the American flag stands. Let’s leave fundamentalist Islamic laws and attitudes in the Middle East — and not start imitating them here.

As a US Army veteran, I served proudly in the fight for the freedom that this legislation would desecrate: if enacted into law, this amendment would accomplish the exact opposite of its stated purpose. Make no mistake, its sponsors intend exactly that chilling effect on freedom of speech.

Do not amend the First Amendment for the first time in history. Old Glory represents freedom. It is not the personal property or symbol of some particular clique, sect or viewpoint. Please oppose any effort to ban flag desecration.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this very important issue.

Most Sincerely,

Alex Forbes

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desecration – or freedom of expression?
January 27, 1999

“I share the feelings that gave birth to the (flag) amendment; seeing our flag desecrated makes me angry. But our angry reaction is the point: it illustrates the power of flag desecration as symbolic speech. It is a most powerful way for someone to tell us they believe we are doing something wrong, that we are not living up to our ideals. “
–Mike Pheneger, Colonel – United States Army (Retired)
Originally published in the Tampa Tribune

I am a veteran (US Army 1961-1964). Colonel Mike Pheneger expressed his thoughts on flag desecration better than I ever did: while it made him angry, he wrote, “It is a most powerful way for someone to tell us they believe we are doing something wrong, that we are not living up to our ideals. “

While never myself a “flag-waver”, I have always respected the flag, and our right to honor it as we choose. I never liked flag-burning, and never approved of it. Continue reading

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