Is flag-burning "free speech"?

Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 07:35 PM GMT

Question

Is Flag-Burning "Free Speech"?

Answer

Flag-burning is plainly a form of expression, very similar to speech. While it is much reviled, please remember that so is the speech of those with whom you most vigorously disagree. In my opinion--and that of the courts that have, to date, ruled on the issue--protecting the "speech" or expression entailed in burning flags is fundamentally constitutional, profoundly American, and very much the intent of the First Amendment.

For a more detailed expression of such ideas, please go to http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1998/flag.html

And, please, if you're writing a paper on this, cite me--and Mr. Tabash--as your sources if you use our words or ideas.

Thanks and regards,

Ed B.

Question

Is Flag-Burning "Free Speech"?

Answer

Hi Nery,

The US Supreme Court has held that laws banning the burning of a flag to be a violation of the First Amendment. This is because it found such laws to be targetting the expressive content of the actions, rather than the act itself. A more general law banning the setting of any fires in a particular area would cover the act of flag burning as well. But a law that targets burning only flags would be found unconstitutional under current precedents.

If you are interested in the case law, you should take a look at Texas v. Johnson 491 U.S. 397 (1989)

http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0491_0397_ZS.html

and US v. Eichman 496 U.S. 310 (1990)

http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0496_0310_ZS.html

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