The American Flag – Old Glory – Died Today
On June 21, 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 that under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the burning of Old Glory was a legal exercise of political speech.
After publicly burning an American flag as a means of political protest, Gregory Lee Johnson was convicted of desecrating a flag in violation of Texas law. This case presents the question whether his conviction is consistent with the First Amendment. We hold that it is not. Burning the American flag was ruled a legal form of political speech by the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Stevens Dissented
This was the last breath in the fight to save the American Flag by the U.S. government.
The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach. If those ideas are worth fighting for — and our history demonstrates that they are — it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration.
I respectfully dissent.
Justice John Paul Stevens – Retired June 29, 2010
[Image Credit ArabHardware]