Veterans groups, conservative organizations, local politicians and a television commentator launched a nationwide petition drive Saturday to support a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit desecration of the American flag.
But the newly formed National Save the Flag Coalition is not canvassing neighborhoods for signatures--it is relying on a national 900 telephone number to attract supporters.
During a press conference in Burbank on Saturday, organizers blasted the U.S. Supreme Court's June 21 decision that flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment and said they hope to get at least 10 million people to pick up their phones and dial the 900 number as an act of protest.
"We regard that flag as something that is alive," said Bruce Herschensohn, a KABC commentator. "It should have the rights of any citizen of the United States."
By calling 1-(900) 860-9138, the phone company will automatically record the name and address of the phone's owner, which will then be transferred to the petition. The call costs $2 for the first minute and $1 for each additional minute that the caller listens to a prerecorded message denouncing the court's decision.
The National Save the Flag Coalition is composed of a variety of groups including the American Freedom Coalition, the American Legion of Los Angeles County, the World Bible Society, the American Pistol and Rifle Assn., Christian Voice and the Moose Lodges.
"The flag is more than a symbol. It is really the soul of America," said state Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights), who wore red, white and blue suspenders at the news conference. "When an American sees the flag, he just doesn't see a flag. He sees the hopes and dreams and aspirations of all Americans."
Herschensohn, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 1986, said he will take the petition to Capitol Hill in September.
Produced TV Program
The American Freedom Coalition, one of the principle organizers of the petition, produced the television program "Oliver North: Fight for Freedom" and sponsored a petition to have him pardoned. The organization, which is headquartered in Washington, has about 500,000 members, according to Robert Spitz, executive director in California.
"We support traditional American values," Spitz said.
The U.S. House of Representatives on June 27 passed a resolution by a 411-5 vote to express its "profound concern" over the Supreme Court decision. Two days later, members of the House--with President Bush's backing--introduced a constitutional amendment that would ban desecration of the U.S. flag.
Before the amendment can become law, it must be approved by Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures.