The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, April 21, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

An individual has the right to burn his own U.S. flag - but freedom becomes a felony when he destroys someone else's personal property.


olitics on campus got out of hand Wednesday. The flag-burning episode in the Pit pitted two different ideologies against each other - and protester Kevin Sellers crossed the line between being civil and being disrespectful.

Trying to destroy another person's property is not a productive way to demonstrate a point of view, not to mention that it's illegal.

In this case, the College Republicans were clearly in the right to stop Sellers from lighting their flag on fire. Sellers was wrong to attempt to destroy something that he didn't own - even if he was making a political statement by doing so.

Sellers should have stuck to exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. The Pit is a public area, so it was the right place for him to voice his opinion about the conflict in Iraq - and any time would have been the right time.

There is nothing wrong with speaking, and even shouting, your mind. This is made clear to students whenever the Pit preacher comes to campus.

As long as it doesn't threaten national security and doesn't have the potential to incite violence, political speech is protected by the Constitution with very few exceptions.

But Sellers' mode of expression is subject to legal penalty. Burning your own flag is protected. Burning someone else's property, on the other hand, is a felony.

There is plenty of room in political debate for controversy.

People should feel free to voice their grievances and complaints with their government - it's one of the United States' fundamental freedoms.

Yet there is no room for the destruction of property. How can we expect to sustain a democracy by promoting it through violating other people's rights?

People should show respect and consideration for the safety and property of others when demonstrating their beliefs.

Instead of using their political passion in the wrong manner, members of the University community should remember Nov. 2 - the date when they can make the greatest gesture and the most important argument possible.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.