Tennessee State Rep Ask US Congress To Ignore Supreme Court Precedent And Outlaw Flag Burning

from the 'attached-please-find-all-the-reasons-this-won't-work' dept

Perhaps Tennessee State Representative Jay Reedy read the electoral room wrong on November 5 and thought his boy would remain president for another four years. Maybe he was just drunk on the success of securing his state rep position in the general election after a strenuous unopposed campaign. Whatever the case, Rep. Reedy is apparently hoping Congressional reps will return to Capitol Hill refreshed and ready to violate the Constitution.

The first shot of Rep. Reedy's new term is this: a resolution urging Congress to make flag burning illegal. This is something Trump threatened to do a handful of times during campaign rallies. This is also something pretty much no one seriously thinks would have a chance of standing up to Constitutional scrutiny. Nevertheless, this resolution exists. And the best part of the resolution is it explains exactly how it will fail even as it calls for Congress to make it happen. (h/t Peter Bonilla)

WHEREAS, a 1931 case set the first precedent for the use of a flag in an act of symbolic speech under the First Amendment, when the Court struck down a California law that banned the flying of a red flag to protest against the government; and

WHEREAS, in 1968, Congress approved the Federal Flag Desecration Law after a Vietnam War protest. The law made it illegal to "knowingly" cast "contempt" upon "any flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling upon it."; and

WHEREAS, the Court moved toward its 1989 decision about flag burning in 1974, when it said in Spence v. Washington that a person couldn’t be convicted for using tape to put a peace sign on an American flag. A majority of the Court saw the act as protected expression under the First Amendment; and

WHEREAS, during the next decade, states narrowed the focus on their flag desecration laws, but they still prohibited flag burning and other acts of mutilation. The issue was then decided, at least in the Supreme Court, in the decision of Texas v. Johnson…

We'll stop there for the moment because there's already so much to work with. This breaks down the history of flag desecration laws being struck down as unconstitutional. Somehow, this is Reedy's pitch for a federal flag desecration law. And it takes someone really special to claim that an issue may still be unsettled ("decided, at least in the Supreme Court"), when it has been already been addressed by the US Supreme Court.

Twice.

WHEREAS, in reaction to the Johnson decision, which only applied to the state of Texas, Congress passed an anti-flag burning law called the Flag Protection Act of 1989. However in 1990, the Supreme Court struck down that law as unconstitutional.

All of that notwithstanding (somehow), Reedy believes Congress can exercise its federal superpowers to craft a law that bans flag burning while still remaining aligned with the First Amendment.

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that we strongly urge the United States Congress to enact legislation to prohibit the desecration of the United States flag.

Chances are this resolution will never make its way to Congress, no matter how much the Tennessee state legislature leans right. And this is just more jingoistic patriotism masquerading as public service from a state rep who has introduced a bunch of other dead-in-the-legislative-water timewasters over the past few years, including:

Constitutionality is not Rep. Reed's strong suit. I guess the rights given to state residents (and Americans located elsewhere) by the Almighty God should be subject to Reed's personal beliefs about where those rights begin and end.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, flag burning, free speech, jay reedy, supreme court, tennessee


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 3:24am

    Just one of those bills would have sent the message you know...

    From attempting to compel/mandate unconstitutional speech to banning constitutional speech it's nice of them to make it undeniably clear how much of a raging hypocrite they are and how much they absolutely loathe the constitution and that pesky 'bill of rights'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2020 @ 3:45am

    Those who would ban flag burning are a cause of flag burning, by causing hatred of government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2020 @ 4:18am

      Re:

      It is a continuing theme, a complete lack of self awareness and is indicative of those who want to rule rather than govern. Do as I say, not as I do - is not something that successful leaders say.
      Saw it in the protests against police brutality that were met with police brutality.
      See it in the protests in France against the new law against documenting police brutality being met with police brutality.
      Hypocrisy and self awareness seem to not be compatible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2020 @ 11:54am

        Re: Re:

        Those who want to rule consider it a grave sin to even question them in service of their own goals, let alone against them. Not being obedient is the greatest sin to them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 3:52am

    I guess the rights given to state residents (and Americans located elsewhere) by the Almighty God should be subject to Reed's personal beliefs about where those rights begin and end.

    Reed would likely claim that his desires happen to correlate with the will of God, possibly because God Herself told him as much. It would make him the latest conservative Christian to essentially blame God for their actions, sure, but I doubt he cares about that.

    Related: No one’s personal beliefs deserve to become the law of the land.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 1 Dec 2020 @ 5:36am

      Re:

      Reed would likely claim that his desires happen to correlate with the will of God, possibly because God Herself told him as much.

      No upright fundamental Christian would admit to letting himself get bossed around by a Jew.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 7:11am

        Re: Re:

        Let alone dark-skinned socialist Jew from the middle east.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 8:19am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yeah, a dark-skinned socialist jewish anarchist with a bleeding heart and a liberal mindset?

          Sounds like it'd be the duty of any god-fearin' american christian with blood in his veins to nail that leftie to a cross.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 10:18am

      Re:

      “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

      ― Susan B. Anthony

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2020 @ 11:57am

        Re: Re:

        Really it was a mistake to not put the fundies who claim to hear the voice of god in with the Jesuses and Napoleons. Mistaking their own internal desires for divine commands sounds like a pretty major mental health issue to me.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 8:22am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, what can you do? A person believes he is Jesus is obviously a victim of delusion and needs comfort and care.

          A person who hears the voice of god telling him to burn gay people is exercising constitutionally protected freedom of religion.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 3:57am

    Welcome to the hard right supermajority era of the modern supreme court, where no issue that conservatives lost is considered settled. Red state lunatics have begun their efforts to reshape national law by throwing poop at the wall until they find a way to get a thumbs up from the supreme court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 7:52am

      Re:

      This isn't one of those issues where you see a partisan split on the Supreme Court, though. The Roberts Court has pretty consistently ruled in favor of free speech, and the rulings aren't usually close (generally the ones I can think of that were 5-4 with the conservatives on one side and the liberals on the other concerned corporate speech). Trump's appointments certainly move the court hard to the right, and we're going to be seeing some terrible repercussions as a result. But I don't think "flag burning is illegal now" is going to be one of them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Benign Bodger, 1 Dec 2020 @ 6:01am

    Sadly for there rest of the country, Reed probably accurately represents the beliefs of his constituents. I write this as a Tennessee transplant who has been observing the local "thought" processes with open-mouthed wonder and horror.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Dec 2020 @ 3:54am

      Re:

      "I write this as a Tennessee transplant who has been observing the local "thought" processes with open-mouthed wonder and horror."

      There's a reason Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft became icons of horror fiction - their most scary works all include vivid depictions of the insides of the heads of american clannish bigots. It's become pretty clear by now that you could take Hitler's old speeches, translate them to english, obfuscate the origin of them, and 73 million americans would stand up in raging approval, cheering for the strongman who's going to give it gud to the liberals, lefties, and the others.

      What bugs me the most is that the rest of the US has apparently been unaware of how bad this really is. It's never really sunk in that All Is Not Well in the land of prosperity and liberty.

      It's as if some 70% of the US citizenry has all grown up with blinders attached and the vague idea that there are "bad folks" out there while writing off every indication that a lot of the people they deal with on a daily basis are those "bad folks".

      Now that those folks have taken to finally wearing their tribal symbols, in the form of red hats and proud boys T-shirts it might, well damn overdue, prod the confused herd of startled sheep into the realization that it's time to stop trying to reach across the aisle to people who've made it abundantly clear they aren't interested...and run the guys unwilling to do their part of the social contract out on god damn rails.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2020 @ 6:00am

        Re: Re:

        "There's a reason Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft became icons of horror fiction - their most scary works all include vivid depictions of the insides of the heads of american clannish bigots"

        Unfortunately, the difference being that while King usually mocks and lampoons the crazies, Lovecraft was one of them. He created some astounding fiction but the underlying tones are unavoidable. At least with Poe, it's literal mental illness behind so much of his work, so while it's not good to demonise the mentally ill, at least you're not dealing with thinly veiled racial and eugenics concepts.

        "Now that those folks have taken to finally wearing their tribal symbols, in the form of red hats and proud boys T-shirts"

        This might be the silver lining of Trump. These people used to camouflage themselves and walk among normal folk. Now that they're unambiguously saying "we're Nazis", the job of dealing with them should be a little easier. The trick is, as with the whole Brexit mess, working out how to deal with them without destroying the fundamentals of what you thought you were sharing a generation ago.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2020 @ 6:33am

    An amendment to the state Constitution declaring the listed rights came from "Almighty God."

    An interesting position to take since this would suggest that the will & power of the people are superior to "Almighty God".

    After all, the first 3 words of the US constitution are "We the people"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 7:02am

    Misplaced priorities

    I have always wondered why so many people in a supposedly advanced civilization put such stock in brightly colored bits of cloth, while at the same time absolutely trashing the important and worthy principles that those bits of cloth are supposed to represent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 7:11am

      Re: Misplaced priorities

      Bear in mind that there's a non-zero number of these people who simultaneously fetishise the US flag and the confederate battle flag that symbolises an army that fought against them, without a shred of irony.

      The principles are clearly not the important thing to them...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 7:12am

        Re: Re: Misplaced priorities

        Bear in mind that there's a non-zero number of these people who simultaneously fetishise the US flag and the confederate battle flag that symbolises an army that fought against them, without a shred of irony.

        If I may quote one of my friends, it's because "the only think they like about the American flag is the racism!"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re: Misplaced priorities

        "fetishise the US flag and the confederate battle flag..."

        You mean the flag of Virginia?

        The dam fools don't even know what the confederate flag looks like, because the one usually identified as such is actually just the battle flag of virginia, as flown by Robert E. Lee.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 1 Dec 2020 @ 8:59am

    Rep. Jay Reedy hates us for our freedom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2020 @ 9:09am

    People who desecrate the flag by pretending to care about the country while actively rigging the system against the common citizens don't get to burch about people burning that flag.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 1 Dec 2020 @ 10:26am

    If Jay Reedy were a true patriot, he would demand an American flag be put in every church.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      Nah, if he really wants to show his 'patriotism' and doesn't mind trampling all over the constitution he should throw out a bill to make it illegal to fly the confederate flag, because I'm pretty sure flying the flag of a group that actively fought against the government in an attempt to preserve the practice of slavery in the US shows a hell of a lot more contempt towards the country than burning the US flag.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 1 Dec 2020 @ 12:51pm

    its just a piece of plastic/cloth.

    I understand that a flag is an important symbol to people but when one is destroyed it means nothing, it's just a piece of cloth. They are mass produced in the country and by other countries do its not like you lose the only copy if one is burned/disrespected.

    Now the values behind what that symbol represent (e.x. freedom and constitutional rights), that I can get behind.

    I believe that symbols can be good reminders of important things but taking away or destroying the symbol doesn't degrade what the symbol represents.

    It's almost like they worship the object instead of what the object represents. Hmmm, reminds me of one of their commandments in the bible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 2:15pm

      Re: its just a piece of plastic/cloth.

      I'd argue that far from denigrating what the flag stands for burning it is in fact upholding an american value from the very founding of the country, namely having the right to metaphorically spit in the face of authority and make a public statement that you don't agree with what those in authority are doing, and conversely that attempts to ban flag burning are the 'unamerican' actions as they attempt to stifle free speech just because it might 'harm' or 'challenge' the image of authority.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Upstream (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 3:45pm

        Re: Re: its just a piece of plastic/cloth.

        I absolutely agree, and your point applies to so much (most?) of what government people say and do!

        In somewhat the same vein, I find it particularly disgusting when politicians spout this kind of un-american, authoritarian $#!t while wearing the de rigueur flag lapel pin.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 1 Dec 2020 @ 1:37pm

    WOW,

    No one taught Basic Civ. in his schools DID THEY?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 3:43am

    Your flag decal wont get you into heaven anymore.

    • John Prine

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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