Texas v. Johnson 491 U.S. 397, 109 S.CT. 2533 (1989)
2. Facts of Case
Gregory Johnson joined a protest in Dallas, Texas during the 1984 Republican Convention. During the protest Johnson burned a flag as others chanted. Johnson was prosecuted for flag desecration that violated a state statute. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Johnson’s conviction, and held that flag burning was an expression of speech. Texas appealed to the Supreme Court (O’Brien 702).
3. Questions of the Court
Is flag burning protected by the First Amendment?
Yes. The decision was 5-4 in favor of Gregory Johnson
5. Opinions of the Court
Justice Brennan delivered the Opinion of the Court. Gregory Johnson was prosecuted for burning …show more content…
Barry (1988) reminds the Court that this violation is content based. Boos denied a law that banned offensive signs five hundred feet from an embassy. The government cannot censor content it does not like. Johnson was arrested because the content of his expression was disliked. Texas does not wish to have the flag as a symbol of anything. The flag is supposed to be a symbol of “nationhood” and “unity” (O’Brien 705). In Texas, treats the flag poorly than they are violating the statute. Government may not ban expression because it may be offensive. The First Amendment was ratified for that reason. In Street v. New York (1969) the Court ruled a person cannot be punished for yelling hateful words at the flag. No precedent exists to ban Johnson’s actions. Texas attempted to distinguish between offensive flag behavior and destruction of the flag. Nowhere in the Constitution or case law is a special exception made for the American Flag. The best way to prevent flag burning is convince people like Johnson that it is wrong. Johnson did not disrupt the peace, and protecting the flags symbolism does not justify a conviction (O’Brien …show more content…
For 200 years the flag has been a special emblem of the United States. The flag is special enough to constitute a ban on burning. In 1931 the “star spangle banner” became the national anthem. In 1949, Flag Day was created on June 14th. Congress recognized the pledge of allegiance. Until 1967, states had been in charge of creating statutes. Now, Title 18 U.S.C punishes flag desecration. Congress also gave multiple rules for the style of flag and location of the flags placement. All states but Alaska and Wyoming have statutes banning flag burning. The flag does not symbolize anyone political parties view. The flag is held sacred by millions of Americans. The First Amendment does not annul 48 states statutes and an Act of Congress banning flag burning. Flag burning is not a crucial part of expressing any ideas. Johnson could have disavowed the flag or burned it in private. Johnson was able to shout, “Ronald Reagan, killer of the hour, perfect example of U.S. power,” and “red white and blue we spit on you…” (O’Brien 708). None of those statements got Johnson arrested. Burning the flag is what lead to Johnson’s arrest. Flag burning is antagonistic and not expressive (O’Brien 707-708).
Justice Stevens also dissented. The Court is simply wrong is stating Johnson’s actions fall under the First Amendment. Had Johnson spray painted or desecrated the Lincoln Memorial there would be no doubt the government