The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 15, 2013

Rahall wants to protect flag from desecration

From staff reports

— Protecting the American flag from desecration was on Rep. Nick Rahall’s mind Friday as the nation observed Flag Day.

For Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the day brought a pitch to safeguard America from future terrorist threats.

“As West Virginians, we are a patriotic people and hold a deep reverence for our nation’s flag,” Rahall, D-W.Va., said in a statement.

“It is a symbol of unity and nationhood that our state’s and nation’s patriots have courageously fought and died to defend for more than 200 years, and this constitutional amendment makes clear that the American people, through their elected lawmakers, have the constitutional authority to protect their flag from desecration.”

Rahall and others, in a bipartisan move, are seeking to reverse a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held flag-burning and other forms of desecration are protected freedoms under the First Amendment.

The high court issued its ruling in a Texas case, barring the state from punishing a flag burner.

James Koutz, national commander of the American Legion, emphasized the amendment in itself doesn’t protect the flag, but only gives Congress the right to enact legislation to do so.

“We owe our utmost efforts to protect the flag as a symbol of our nation’s strength and unity and hope for people everywhere,” Rahall added.

Capito voted for HR1960, the National Defense Authorization Act, intended to give military personnel a pay raise, while rejecting efforts to increase fees for Tricare and approving vast changes to sexual assault laws within the armed forces.

“We live in a dangerous world and it is imperative that we are not only providing our troops with the critical resources they need, but we are preparing for future threats,” Capito said.

Capito said sexual assault cases are increasing and it is vital that steps be taken to prevent them while prosecuting those who commit such offenses, noting the new legislation imposes mandatory terms on offenders and heightens protections for whistleblowers.

“It also strips commanders of the authority to overturn a sexual assault conviction by a military jury, while still keeping the prosecution inside the chain of command,” the 2nd District representative said.