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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Paul] is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, in 2 days we are going to be debating an amendment to the Constitution dealing with the flag. The proposed flag amendment to the Constitution deals with more than just the issue of freedom of speech. It involves the right of free expression and the right to own property. These two are inseparable. A free society cannot have one without the other; and when one is compromised, so is the other.
When property rights are correctly honored, free expression is guaranteed through that right. The independence of a newspaper, radio station or a church guarantees the use of that property in any free expression desired. No one has the right to use any newspaper, radio or church to exert his or her own opinion as an example of free speech. Catholics have no right to say Mass in a Jewish temple. Certainly in our homes we are protected from others imposing their free speech on us. It is the church property that guarantees freedom of religion. The networks or papers need not submit to demands to be heard by religious believers as an example of free speech. Use of the radio or newspaper by those with strong opinions or religious views is only done voluntarily with the permission of the owner.
Yes, it is very important who owns the flag and where it was desecrated. What if it is in a home or in a church for some weird reason? Do the police invade the premises? Who gets sent in? The BATF, the DEA, the FBI, the U.S. Army or the U.S. flag police? If it is on government property or a government flag or someone else's flag, that is an attack on property that can and should be prosecuted. By legislating against how someone else's flag is being used, the right of free expression and property ownership is infringed just as if it were church property or a newspaper.
We work diligently to protect controversial expression in books, television and movies and even bizarre religious activities through the concept of private property ownership as long as violence is not used. Is this matter any different?
We live in an age where it is becoming more common to attack free expression, and that is a danger we should not ignore. We find one political group attacking expression that violates the subjective rules of politically correctness while working to prohibit voluntary prayer. Now another wants to curtail expression through flag anti-desecration laws in the name of patriotism. But there is a better way to handle demonstrations and malcontents.
The danger here is that flag burners frequently express a disdain for big government. Curtailing any expression of criticism of the government is fraught with great danger. Will anyone who opposed big government someday be identified as a friend of the flag burners and treated like one since he is expressing an idea similar to the flag burners? Just because some people are not smart enough to express themselves in any other way than flag burning, it does not justify the careless attack on free expression. Once it is routinely accepted expressing these ideas as dangerous to the status quo, all our freedoms are threatened.
We need to direct our patriotic zeal toward defending the Constitution and to the protection of liberty. Lack of this effort has led to the impending bankruptcy of the warfare state. Now, there is a problem worth directing our attention.
The flag police are no substitute for our policing our own activities and responsibilities here in the Congress. We are endlessly delivering more power in the name of political emergencies, budgetary crises and government efficiency to the Executive, a process not permitted under the Constitution. We permit socialists to attack property rights and the fundamentals of economic liberty as a right under our Constitution. But those who profess respect for private property should not be trapped into attacking flag property when it is used to express unpopular antigovernment views and even change the Bill of Rights to do so.
The socialists know what they are doing, but the anti-desecrators act out of confused emotions while responding to political pressures. We should not further sacrifice freedom of expression with a flag amendment. Especially when compared to the harm done with taxpayers' funding of school programs and NEA desecration, it is negligible. True patriots can surely match the wits of the jerks who burn flags without undermining the first and the fifth amendments.
Mr. Speaker, we can do better than rush to alter constitutionally protected free expression for a nonproblem. We could easily organize bigger and grander demonstrations to celebrate our constitutional liberties for which the flag is our symbol in answer to the flag burners.
I promise to appear any time, any place to celebrate our liberties and countermand the flag burners who work so hard to offend us. We do not need an amendment to the Constitution which for the first time in our history would undermine and curtail the protections of the first amendment.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey [Mr. Pallone] is recognized for 5 minutes.
[Mr. Pallone addressed the House. His remarks will appear hereafter in the Extensions of Remarks.]
Warren S. Apel