The Flag-Burning Case
HIS 303: The American Constitution
Prof. Jill Walsh
October 10, 2009
The American flag is held near and dear in many people’s hearts. Most Americans see whether it is being saluted at a sporting event or pledged to at the beginning of a school day, the flag as an icon worth fighting and dying for. Since the American flag was created over 200 years ago, it has been a symbol of hope, freedom and pride. Even though the American flag has a long and glorious history, there are some moments when the flag has been under attack even by its own people. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Texas vs. Johnson that the First Amendment would protect burning the flag. During the 1984 Republican National Convention, a man named Gregory Lee Johnson participated in a political demonstration. The protesters were demonstrating against President Reagan’s administration and certain Dallas-based corporations, where the Convention was being held. “They marched through the streets, shouted chants, and held signs outside the offices of several companies. At one point, another demonstrator handed Johnson am American flag taken from a flagpole outside one of the targeted buildings.” (Wikipedia, 2009) When the demonstrators got to the City Hall, Johnson unfurled the flag and set it on fire. While no one was hurt, many witnesses were extremely insulted and upset at seeing their country’s flag burn to ashes. “Of the approximately 100 demonstrators, Johnson alone was charged with a crime. The only criminal offence with which he was charged was the desecration of a venerated object in violation of Tex. Penal Code Ann. 42.09(a)(3)(1989).” (Apel)
Johnson fought his conviction by turning to the highest court in the state of Texas, which is the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The state of Texas once again argued its’ case against Johnson. “The State had said that its interest were more important than Johnson’s...