Rep. Wayne Owens stood near a Capitol Flag Day rally Thursday and said he "is leaning against supporting" a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration.
"I think that it is probably not necessary, that it's unenforceable and that it's very bad policy," Owens, D-Utah, said loudly. He was heard over other members of Congress who were praising the amendment at the rally, in which crowds waved small flags.Owens had called a press conference about another topic on the east lawn of the Capitol, where at any given time numerous members can be seen talking before television cameras with the Capitol as a backdrop. The Flag Day rally just happened to be on when reporters asked Owens about the flag.
He said he won't make a detailed statement about his stand until next Wednesday "because I'd like to say something thoughtful about it, and simply haven't had the time to really define what I want to do and how I want to do it."
But he added, "I cannot see how you define what a flag is. People wear it . . . It's on labels. It's everywhere. Secondly, I don't know how you can write an amendment that can be enforced. So I'm leaning against it."
Owens said, "The flag comes in many forms. Little kids draw it in school. What happens if the kids bring one home from school and you wrap a fish in it and throw it away? What happens if you wear it on your shorts? These are tough issues."
He said he agrees with a woman who spoke in one of his town meetings in Magna. "She said, `The flag has been spat upon. It's been burned. But it's still flying. The damn fools who did that to it, they're the ones who look silly.' "
Other members of Utah's congressional delegation have issued statements favoring the amendment.
Owens admits that his stand likely will be unpopular politically.
"The Republicans are salivating, talking about 30-second spots and punishment for those who oppose the flag amendment," he said. "So those of us who happen to be on the other side have to be concerned about it.
"I've given the Republicans so many wonderful 30-second spots already that another one I suppose will not be fatal _ at least that would be my hope."
Then he joked, "Oh well, it's been a wonderful four years in Congress since my comeback."