JR Ball: The First Amendment goes à la carte

    Business Report Executive Editor JR Ball says he must have missed the memo that designated the U.S. Constitution a “buffet style affair,” or a document we fervently embrace when we want to protect stuff we like and reject when we find something objectionable.

    “The most recent example of decidedly un-American behavior comes courtesy of the Parish Council in Iberville Parish, a rural hamlet south of Baton Rouge that straddles the Mississippi River and is best-known for being home to petrochemical plants and the once-slave-owning Nottoway Plantation,” Ball writes in his latest column. “It was here that council members declared themselves a ‘very patriotic parish’ before unanimously voting to torch the First Amendment by banning the desecration of the American flag, the Louisiana flag and the parish flag. The shocker, given our love of football, is why these good-meaning people did not include the flags of LSU and the New Orleans Saints in this burn prohibition.”

    Like it or not, Ball notes, the Supreme Court made clear in its 1989 Texas v. Johnson decision that flag burning is protected free speech under the First Amendment.

    “Yet, despite an Oct. 13 warning from the ACLU that such a move is unequivocally unconstitutional, the council—putting public opinion and vote-chasing above the law—declared anyone caught burning or otherwise harming one of these three fine flags faces a fine of up to $1,000 and possibly a stint in prison,” Ball writes.

    Ball says the disappointing part is that not a single citizen of Iberville Parish raised even a whisper of objection to the council’s willful disregard for the most basic of American rights—free speech. Those agreeing with the council may have their hearts in the right place, he adds, but that doesn’t mean they are any less wrong.

    “Those who have lost their lives fighting for us did so to protect each and every one of our constitutional rights—including the reprehensible act of burning an American flag,” Ball writes. “I don’t support the flag burner, but being an American demands I support his right to do so.”

    Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

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