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Flag Burning Is Not Speech


Flag Burning Is Not Speech

Friday 21 May 2004

Stephen Franks Press Releases - Crime & Justice

If the courts find that the Bill of Rights obliges them to support Paul Barry Hopkinson's defence to charges of dishonouring the New Zealand flag, Parliament should immediately change the law, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"The effect of flag-burning derives solely from its power to shock and offend. It is not speech; it is not expression. It is the suppression and destruction of others' expression," Mr Franks said.

"Our forebears fought to protect freedom to debate, to reason. They had in mind freedom to persuade by evidence of commitment and passion.

"Flag-burning derives its impact only from its offensiveness. The burner is saying they feel so strongly that they are willing to risk punishment, and willing to trample people's emotions to be heard.

"Even flag-burners should want the law upheld. To remove the legal penalties - or not to enforce them - deprives the burning of significance.

"The best thing that could come out of this case would be a non-political public debate about the New Zealand flag, about what it should mean, and what it should be," Mr Franks said.

ENDS


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