Friday, June 14, 2013

Red, White, and Blue and a Burning U.S. Supreme Court Case

Nearly 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation to establish June 14 as Flag Day. As we mark the day today to honor the United States flag, I’d like to point out a federal case involving the flag and the protection of constitutional rights.

Landmark cases have far-reaching impacts. Texas v. Johnson is one of them.

In 1989, to protest the policies of the Reagan administration, Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the Dallas City Hall. He was arrested, but argued that his act was protected by the First Amendment because he was engaging in symbolic speech. The Supreme Court agreed and held that the constitution protects symbolic speech even when it is offensive.

Many of us have fond memories of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when we began our school day. Because the flag is such a recognized symbol of the United States and is honored as dear to patriotic Americans, its desecration is a controversial means of political expression. Many would disagree with flag burning.  
What would you think if you saw such an act? What should government do?

Our Constitution grants us rights that may not be granted to people in other countries. One is freedom of speech – even speech that may be considered wrong or even hateful. Our country is strong enough to allow different opinions to be expressed, including criticism of the government. We should be glad to be uncensored and unmuzzled .   
We should be proud to honor a flag that stands for the right to freely speak. It is a flag that deserves our respect and protection.