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GARDEN GROVE JOURNAL
COMMENTARY Bill Orton
Just hours after the ruling, I said that if the Pledge is somehow unconstitutional, then maybe it's time to amend the Constitution. On the 27th, I sent a proposed Flag-&-Pledge Amendment to Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Virginia), each of whom had said that, yes, we ought to have an Amendment.
My 20-word Flag-&-Pledge Amendment reads: "No portion of this Constitution shall preclude Congress from passing legislation to adopt or protect a national Flag or Pledge." I've now sent this proposal to every member of the House and Senate, which cost me almost $300 in stamps, paper and envelopes.
The amendment explicitly allows Congress to protect the Flag or the Pledge -- power that it obviously lacks today. If we're going to protect one, it's got to be both. You say the Pledge as you look at the Flag.
I'm using the bully pulpit afforded to me as a candidate for state office to raise this issue.
If I pull off my own election miracle in November, I'll be knocking on doors, looking for a Member of Congress to sponsor the Flag-&-Pledge Amendment.
If the Congress sends it to the states, as a California Assemblymember, I'll carry the resolution in the legislature to ratify what would become the 28th Amendment.
I may be only one politician, but I think that the vast majority of Americans share the belief that something's broken in America with these court rulings.
To me, the atheist from Elk Grove and Judge Goodwin showed that we've got a hole in the Constitution. They climbed up on a ladder and poured out a big bucket of water. The Pledge dripped right on through that hole.
The hole is big enough that in 1988 the Flag fell through it, too, when the Supreme Court ruled that anyone can burn the American Flag as a "proper conduct" of one's First Amendment freedom of expression.
The way to fix things is to patch the hole our Constitution. My Amendment is basically a bucket of parchment tar.
Last month's decision by the Ninth Circuit - no matter whether it is overturned or vacated - simply reopened the deep wound that had been inflicted by the Flag ruling. Patching the Constitution would clean a national wound.
People sucked in their anger over the Flag decision back in 1988. Like a wound, anger is not cleansed through silence or inaction. Only open debate and action can heal our wounds.
Not everybody agrees with giving Congress power to pass a Flag law or a Pledge law. I've run the Flag-&-Pledge Amendment by hundreds of people and there has been spirited debate over its content.
Debate is precisely what we need.
Does freedom come with responsibility? Used to be that when you felt objections to laws, you put your body on the line. Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau spent plenty of days in jail.
When Jello Biafra burned the Flag outside of the Republican National Convention, he wasn't on the line like Dr. King. Should Mr. Biafra have gone to jail or gotten off scott free?
Americans need to talk about liberty and responsibility.
Nothing brings out conversation at the coffee machine or water cooler like a ratification drive for an Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Think back to the Equal Rights Amendment.)
Ratification drives are tough, but when people see a hole in the roof, then an Amendment moves pretty quickly. It was only 31 years ago that we lowered the voting age and that followed several amendments in just one decade.
There is room in our Constitution for both the First Amendment and for a Flag-&-Pledge Amendment.
Free speech is the anvil of democracy, but there's room in our Republic for both freedom of speech and protection of the Flag.
Religious freedom is the bedrock of our society, but the Pledge is our great civic equalizer. It is one of the few things in this great land that everybody does together.
But if the courts say that the Flag and Pledge are little more than icons, then we've got to take positive action to protect them.
I say let's pass a Flag-&-Pledge Amendment.
To have Bill Orton speak to your group about the Flag-&-Pledge Amendment, send an email message to email@example.com or call (562) 598-9630.