REP. JOHNNY RYE

The House Judiciary Committee today declined to endorse Rep. Johnny Rye’s bill to make flag burning a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.

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Asked about Supreme Court rulings preventing such laws because they abridge free expression, Rye said no Arkansas law had been tested in court.

No, but a Texas law has been. And so has a federal law prohibiting flag desecration. Even Justice Antonin Scalia held that view, though he said he despised those who’d desecrate the flag. Jeff Rosenzweig, representing criminal defense attorneys, made these points. He said it would be challenged if passed.

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Even without the constitutional problem, Rosenzweig said the bill had other problems. He said a flag of any size made of any substance is covered. He said that would cover a cake decorated as a flag and then eaten.

Rep. Brandt Smith asked for a do-pass, but it was defeated on a voice vote. Somewhat of a surprise in this legislature.

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