Wow: A Whole Unethical TOWN!


In Somers, Iowa, Homer Martz  flew his  U.S. flag upside down  to protest the future placement of an oil pipeline near his home.  He has been charged with desecrating Old Glory under Iowa code 718A , which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail  to “publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state…”

The law, however, is unconstitutional. So said an  Iowa Federal District Court judge in 2004, when he ruled Iowa’s flag desecration laws violated the First Amendment. Martz, a U.S. Army veteran, has told anyone who will listen that the Supreme Court has ruled citizens can burn the American flag, so presumably flying it Bizarro World-style is also okay. He’s right, too. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson491 U.S. 397 (1989), that prohibitions on desecrating the American flag were unconstitutional.. It reaffirmed the holding in  1990.

Writes an exasperated Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional law expert,  “The town of Somers appears to lack a single lawyer — or a telephone number for a single lawyer — to explain free speech protections to them.”

Is it too much to expect a municipality to absorb a First Amendment right that was settled almost a quarter century ago, and not persecute a veteran for exercising the rights he served to protect and preserve?

Apparently. They could google flag burning and learn that this law is void. Such incompetence in government, at any level, is unconscionable.

The Protesters, The Veteran And The Flag—An Instant Ethics Train Wreck In Georgia

Mission accomplished... But what exactly was the mission?

Mission accomplished… But what exactly was the mission?

This the kind of story that makes Americans cynical. I’m more cynical from just reading it. Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart saw protesters  stomping on a flag in a demonstration at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, and took action. She briefly snatched the flag away, but police officers intervened, arrested her, handcuffed Manhart, returned the flag to the protesters so they could continue abusing it, and escorted the comely counter-protester away. The protestors, all African-Americans, proceeded to say some silly and offensive things (Can we stipulate that “You killed off our people. You enslaved our people…You put us in this white supremacist place” is silly and offensive? I think that’s fair… and a lot fairer than accusing Manhart of “killing off” African-Americans.) Neither the demonstrators nor the police pressed charges against Manhart, but she did receive a campus trespass warning that bars her from campus activities. Let us pause for a brief ethics audit, shall we?

1. The flag desecrating protest, as the Supreme Court has clearly ruled, was legal and protected, except to the extent that it incites others to violence, like a burning cross. In some settings, it might be so judged. Not on a college campus, unless the college is West Point.

2. Legal or not, it’s a disrespectful and irresponsible protest, not to mention dumber than a Justin Bieber Fan Club.

3. I think many veterans would react as Manhart did. My father would have. I might have on his behalf. A lot of non-veterans would as well, and I salute them. Remember Rick Monday?

4. The police were correct to intervene and arrest Manhart.

5. The protesters were correct not to press charges.

6. The university correctly ordered her to stay away.

Unfortunately, the story began to rot soon after it was first reported. Continue reading