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Monday, June 27, 2005

ATTENTION WASHINGTON POST: If Flag-Burning is Free Speech, Why Aren't Campaign TV Advertising Spots Also Free Speech?

The Washington Post editorializes today against the proposed constitutional amendment banning flag burning. And what a stirring defense of the First Amendment! There's just one problem ... but first, here's the stirring defense:

"The other effect would be to water down one of the most profound principles that the Constitution articulates: that Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. The great power of this principle is that it admits no exception: not for the most odious racism or Holocaust denial, not for the most insulting criticisms of those in high office, not for cone-shaped white hoods or hammers and sickles, and not for burning or otherwise defiling the Stars and Stripes.
"Passing this amendment probably wouldn't create a great substantive shift in the general scope of the First Amendment's protection, but it would sap it of the idea that gives it its power: that American government does not punish even the most offensive ideas."

All of that is absolutely true, of course, but what about the free speech that is exercised when somebody buys a TV or radio spot to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for Congress 60 or fewer days before Election Day?

Either the Post must argue that such speech is not covered by the First Amendment, which means there are exceptions, or admit that campaign finance regulations banning such electioneering are gross violations of the Constitution.

Chrenkoff has some advice for advocates of the flag burning amendment - "don't be a girlie-man and you are big enough to deal with idiots yourself and you don't need the government to hold your hand on this one." More here from Down Under.