For Immediate Release: November 30, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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The Center for Inquiry has decried President-elect Donald Trump’s call for the criminalization of flag burning, characterizing the suggestion as antithetical to American values and constitutional rights.
In a tweet posted on the morning of November 29, the president-elect wrote, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
“We are deeply concerned that the next President of the United States is advocating for imprisonment or revocation of citizenship for those exercising their right to free expression,” said Ronald Lindsay , President of the Center for Inquiry. “If America stands for anything, it is the fundamental human right to free speech, which includes the right to express dissent and criticism of one’s own government. That Mr. Trump would criminally punish someone for the expressive act of burning a flag shows that either he does not understand the foundational principles he will soon be swearing to uphold, or that he stands in opposition to those principles.”
“Advancing and preserving free expression is the very core of what the Center for Inquiry stands for,” said Lindsay. “Accordingly, we have no choice but to take strong exception to the president-elect’s suggestion. The Enlightenment values upon which America was founded demand that we respect the right to question, criticize, and protest our government’s actions, even — and especially — if we profoundly disagree with what is being said.
Mr. Trump is unfortunately not alone in his opposition to this particular form of free expression. In 2005, then-Senator Hillary Clinton co-sponsored a bill prohibiting the desecration of the American flag. However, Clinton ultimately voted against a flag-desecration constitutional amendment in 2006.
“Over the next four years, the United States may very well face the greatest threats to First Amendment rights, including freedom of religion and expression, in generations,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s director of government affairs and main representative to the United Nations. “Just as we vigorously oppose harsh restrictions on free expression in repressive countries such as Saudi Arabia, we must collectively push back against threats to freedom of expression right here in America — regardless of the person or party responsible. All Americans of all political viewpoints should oppose the criminalization of flag burning, and should let Mr. Trump know such criminalization is both wrong and harmful.”