The American Bar Association's president contends the public is being "manipulated and misled" by those who support amending the Constitution to ban desecration of the U.S. flag.
"When Americans know the facts, their views change" about a flag-burning amendment, George Bushnell Jr. of Detroit said Friday as his 375,000-lawyer group began its convention in Chicago.A written copy of Bushnell's comments, prepared for a convention news conference, was made available in advance.
Bushnell said a recent opinion poll taken for the ABA shows "that when Americans begin to understand the implications of such an amendment, they no longer support it."
He said 64 percent of the 635 registered voters surveyed said they favor an amendment to prohibit burning or other desecration of the American flag. Thirty percent opposed it.
"But when asked in a follow-up question if they would favor or oppose such an amendment if they knew that it would be the first in our nation's history to restrict freedom of speech and freedom of political protest, the results were dramatically different," Bushnell said.
He said 52 percent of those surveyed then answered that they opposed the amendment, while 38 percent still favored it.
"The media must and can let the public know just how they are being manipulated and misled," Bushnell said.
The House overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment in June to overcome Supreme Court rulings that said flag-burning can be a protected form of political expression.
Those decisions did not preclude laws barring theft or desecration of someone else's American flag.
The Senate has not yet acted on the proposed amendment. Passage by a two-thirds vote there would send the measure to the states for ratification.