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The flag protection amendment Sen. Orrin Hatch is co-sponsoring concerns me. I ask, which is most important - a cloth symbol or the First Amendment right to free speech?

The Supreme Court has declared flag desecration to be a protected form of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. I loathe flag desecration as much as anybody does, for it is a highly inflammatory form of speech. However, it is precisely because it is a form of speech (inflammatory, notwithstanding) that we must not ban it.Passing an amendment prohibiting flag desecration (that is, inflammatory speech), would give the Supreme Court a green light to uphold as constitutional other laws banning inflammatory speech (there go G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh, for starters).

Thus, in our attempt to save the flag from desecration, we would open the door for the Supreme Court to desecrate all of what the flag represents. These days, the truth about our government's excesses and abuses is pretty inflammatory. Is the truth to be banned next?

Freedom of speech is too important to tinker with. I hope that it will not require the Second Amendment to restore our lost First Amendment rights when the Supreme Court, as a result of this flag-protection amendment, finishes gutting the First Amendment. "The pen is mightier than the sword." Hatch should do his duty as a statesman and convince the supporters of the flag protection amendment that this time the Supreme Court is right, that such an amendment is not in our best interest, and that it would, in fact, lead to serious restrictions on our right to criticize the criminal justice system, agencies that put mankind second to squirrels, snail darters, kangaroo rats, spotted owls and "wetlands," and politicians such as Janet Reno and Bill and Hillary.

David A. Hansen