Unfathomable Ignorance

 Posted by on 29 June 2006 at 4:13 am  Uncategorized
Jun 292006

I don’t always read “Best of the Web,” but Tuesday’s lead story was too good (in an insane way) to pass by without note. (I’ve added the link to the quoted op-ed.) Here is the whole entry; read it and weep:

Great Moments in Higher Education

The U.S. Senate is considering an amendment to the Constitution that would exclude the desecration of the flag from the First Amendment’s free-speech protections, effectively overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling in Texas v. Johnson (1989) that held burning the flag to be a form of “symbolic speech.” Sixty senators have signed on as sponsors, with 67 needed to propose the amendment. The House approved it last year, 286-130, so an affirmative Senate vote would send it to the states, 38 of whose legislatures would have to ratify it.

Weighing in against the proposed amendment, in an op-ed for the Charlotte Observer, is Dr. Susan Roberts:

Flag burning was thrust into the public eye following an arrest of a young man during the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. The man identified himself as a member of a group calling itself the Revolutionary Youth Brigade. He was charged with a violation of the Texas Desecration of Venerated Objects statute.

In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed an appellate court decision that the man was within his First Amendment rights. Wasting no time, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act just months after the ruling. Wasting no time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Flag Protection Act was inconsistent with First Amendment freedoms and thus unconstitutional.

It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would now uphold an amendment prohibiting flag burning, even with the change in the court’s composition.

It may seem unlikely that the Supreme Court would uphold a statute prohibiting flag burning (and indeed, in 1990′s U.S. v. Eichman it overturned the federal Flag Protection Act of 1989). That’s why Congress is considering a constitutional amendment, which the court couldn’t overturn.

It’s embarrassing enough that Dr. Roberts’s error got past the editors of the Observer, but it’s even worse that she made such a goof in the first place. For she is not a real doctor but a professor of political science, at North Carolina’s Davidson College, where she teaches such courses as The Legislative Process (POL 211) and The Politics of Feminism (POL 215).

It is troubling indeed to think that the political scientists of tomorrow are being taught by people who lack basic knowledge about the workings of American government.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be said about an op-ed by a political science professor apparently ignorant of the fact that constitutional amendments are not subject to judicial review. Well, I can say this: The bozos actually advocating this anti-flag-burning amendment are more contemptible, and probably more ignorant, than even Dr. Susan Roberts seems to be. Oh, and someday, I’d love to live in a culture where stories like the above are relegated to the Weekly World News.

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