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Jewish Groups Take Both Sides on Question of Desecrating Flag

The Jewish War Veterans of the USA have launched an attack against the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding the rights of protesters to burn the American flag.

But other Jewish groups welcome the ruling as a victory for free speech and oppose President Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw desecration of the flag.

The veterans’ group said in a statement that the court decision “seriously wounds our nation’s veterans, for whom the flag is much more than a symbol.”

The veterans said they defend the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech, but “to desecrate the flag” is “a savage act worthy of punishment to the fullest extent of the law.”

By contrast, the American Jewish Congress said the court’s decision demonstrates “the vitality of the First Amendment in protecting views which are imprudent, unwise and even abhorrent.”

The group’s president, Robert Lifton, said in a statement that the burning of the flag is a “deliberate and deeply offensive affront,” but that the First Amendment offers a protection “which must be maintained and safeguarded.”

In opposing Bush’s call for an amendment to prevent flag desecration, the American Jewish Committee also raised the flag of the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment is America’s first principle,” said Sholom Comay, president of AJCommittee. “It protects the freedom of all of us, including heretics, infidels, dissenters of all varieties even crazy people who see fit to burn the American flag.”

A Jewish legislator from New York was among only five members of the House of Representatives to vote against a resolution expressing “profound concern” over the high court’s ruling.

Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) said. “We have nothing to fear from the flag burners.”

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