The first amendment of the United States Constitution states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In other words, it is perfectly legal and perfectly within the rights of ordinary citizens to protest the actions of the government of the United States by burning the flag that symbolizes that government. The Supreme Court of the United States, even said as much in their 1989 (5-4) decision in Texas vs. Johnson. In the decision (quoted from uscourts.gov) “the majority of the Court, according to Justice William Brennan, agreed with Johnson and held that flag burning constitutes a form of "symbolic speech" that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority noted that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society's outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech. In particular, the majority noted that the Texas law discriminated upon viewpoint, i.e., although the law punished actions, such as flag burning, that might arouse anger in others, it specifically exempted from prosecution actions that were respectful of venerated objects, e.g., burning and burying a worn-out flag. The majority said that the government could not discriminate in this manner based solely upon viewpoint.”
(You can find a full write up of the decision at: http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-texas-v-johnson)
This ruling was later upheld in the 1990 case United States vs. Eichman.
I live in one the reddest of the red states. Utah, where most people stop thinking on election day and vote for party over person in elections. A state that seems to be full of flag wavers, and where descent is dealt with harshly and often with meanness.
The funny thing is, so many people here also believe that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired and absolute. They say that you have an absolute right to your religion, the absolute right to say or write or act according to what you believe, but, if you believe or act differently than them, you’d better just leave or be prepared to have your “ass whooped.” I had a family member threaten me with just that kind of punishment when I pointed out to him that flag burning was protected speech under the constitution of the United States. Sometimes people just don’t want to hear the truth when the truth conflicts with their world view.
Here in Utah, supposedly one of the states with the nicest people, folks seem to lose their minds when it comes to the right of free speech and expression. After Trump won the presidency (I still want to hurl when I hear that) there was an anti-Trump march here in Salt Lake, a flag was burned. The woman who did it received death threats. DEATH THREATS! From nice, church going (probably) patriotic Utahans, who profess to believe in the constitution, but are willing to threaten a woman’s life for exercising her RIGHT to free speech and expression under that same constitution. Where is the logic in that?
Social Media has opened up so many avenues for self expression, for speaking your mind, and for sharing ideas. But so often, the sharing of those ideas are met with harsh criticism from those who you have a connection with. Like many of you, I have friends who are very conservative, friends who are very progressive, friends who are very moderate, and friends who really don’t care or have an opinion.
Me? My political leanings vary depending on the topic. Some things I stand with the conservatives, other things I stand with the liberals. On the topic of flag burning I say that if you feel that strongly against America and the government “for which it stands” then, Burn baby, Burn! As is your right.
I’m not quite to the point of burning the flag, even though I can’t quite imagine that the government could become any more corrupt. But then, Mr. Trump hasn’t taken office yet and we have much further to fall, potentially.
Every day, I see memes on facebook and other social media sites that say things like, “Flag burning should be illegal, Share if you agree,” or “If you don’t love America, you should get out, Share if you agree.”
Well, I don’t agree. But, I also don’t dare say anything in the comments because I don’t want to cause an argument or poke a hornet’s nest, even though I think that those memes and like statements are designed to do just that, and that good people post them naively believing that their “friends” believe similarly, after all, we are in conservative Utah, Right?.
I’m also not saying that they shouldn’t be able to post such statements, they are perfectly within their rights to do so, all I’m saying is that if they are happy with possibly offending others, who may not share their views, then post away, but in doing so, they should not get offended if I decide that I want to post something that may offend them.
As for President-Elect Trump (Gag), What does he have to say?
Loss of citizenship? Where do I sign?