Texas v. Johnson
America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you, was being chanted by approximately 100 demonstrators as Gregory Lee Johnson doused our American Flag in kerosene and set it on fire, at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas.
Afterwards, a witness to the burning collected the flag and took it home and buried it.
Johnson was arrested and convicted of desecration of a venerated object. Texas law forbids the burning of the flag, unless the flag is burned as a means of disposing of it due to damage, such as being torn or dirty. (Actual Case Texas v Johnson Page 7) Texas law stipulates: (Actual Case Texas v Johnson Page 11) ” Texas Penal Code Ann.
1989) provides in full:
Desecration of Venerated Object a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly desecrates:
a public monument;
a place of worship or burial; or 3) a state or national flag.
A b) For purposes of this section, ‘desecrate’ means deface, damage, or otherwise physically mistreat in a way that the actor knows will seriously offend one or more persons likely to observe or discover his action.
An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.”)
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, overturned the conviction. The court stated
Johnson could not be punished, as it would be a violation of his First Amendment rights.
According to the court Johnson was merely expressing himself at the demonstration, no one injured, only offended by the action. Therefore, he could not be punished under these circumstances.
Johnson along with other protesters intentionally planned destruction at the demonstration. (Actual Case
Texas v Johnson Page 3 “While the Republican
National Convention was taking place in Dallas in 1984, respondent Johnson participated in a political demonstration dubbed the “Republican War Chest Tour.” As explained in literature distributed by the demonstrators and in speeches made by them, the purpose of this event was to protest the policies of the Reagan administration and of certain Dallas- based corporations. The demonstrators marched through the Dallas streets, chanting political slogans and stopping at several corporate locations to stage “die-ins” intended to dramatize the consequences of nuclear war. On several occasions they spray-painted the walls of buildings and overturned potted plants, but Johnson himself took no part in such activities. He did, however, accept an American flag handed to him by a fellow protestor who had taken it from a flagpole outside one of the targeted buildings.”) Based on these actions, it should have been taken into account, these protesters, including Johnson, had every intention of causing destruction of property and to cause harm. Johnson “claims” to have no part of those activities. In all actualities, you don’t go to a protest with kerosene on hand and not intend to do harm.
Johnson claims (Actual Case Page 5 “The American Flag was burned as Ronald
Reagan was being re nominated as President. And a more powerful statement of symbolic speech, whether you agree with it or not, couldn’t have been made at that time.
It’s quite a just position [juxtaposition]. We had new patriotism and no patriotism.”) By his own admission, he burned the flag and according to Texas Penal Code, this case should not have gone before the Supreme Court.
I am sure Johnson would have said anything to save himself and obtain more attention to him. Who wouldn’t? With this case being overturned he had no accountability for his actions.
The ruling disgusts me. It is deplorable, to me that any person can act with lewd behavior or misconduct and be allowed to hide behind our First Amendment. I am disgusted that our court system allows the abuse of this right and will continue to allow it.
Many Americans feel the same as I do. The flag is our Nation’s symbol that represents us and what we stand for; it was still flying after the 1814 British attack at Fort McHenry. Our flag inspired our national anthem, Star Spangled Banner; and when citizen’s die we have our flag at half-staff to show respect.
Our flag is even more cherished by our nation’s armed forces. (Army Lawyer
The military drapes the American flag over the caskets of its honored dead; and presents the flag to family members as a token of appreciation from a grateful nation.
Soldiers going into harm’s way have worn, and continue to wear, the American flag on their uniforms. Some of the most celebrated moments in American military history involved the flag. Unquestionably, the best-known moment was the Marines raising the American flag over Mount Surabachi on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World
Our military justice system differs from the civilian justice system. They have the right to punish flag misconduct, despite the Supreme court rulings. (Army Lawyer the military justice system retains the ability to punish certain flag-related misconduct, even when the challenged conduct might otherwise be protected expressive conduct in the civilian sector.”) Our military finds the burning of the flag just as deplorable as many
Americans. Rightly so, they defend our country, they respect what our flag stands for and they wear the flag on their uniforms with pride. I feel anyone who doesn’t care if flag burning is allowed either has no knowledge of what our flag stands for or has no respect for this country in the least. I personally take it as a slap in the face. I don’t care what the excuse may be.
A understand that maybe I am being a little harsh in my convictions. The burning of the flag doesn’t happen very often and when it does Americans are there protesting the right to burn it. I believe the one of the first cases was “State v New York. (394 U.S.
576) Street, in response to the murder of civil rights activist James Meredith, burned the American flag on a public street corner. When confronted about the burning by a police officer, Street stated, “We don’t need no damn flag” and “Yes, that is my flag; I burned it.
If they let that happen to Meredith we don’t need an American flag.” The U.S. Supreme court also overturned his conviction on the basis he was expressing himself.
I believe that overtunring convictions and by being able to hide behind our First Amendment we are allowing a door to be opened and anyone can say “I was expressing myself because…” It’s ridiculous.
Since Texas v Johnson, (St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture Page 1 “many groups have led the charge to add a flag desecration admendment to the Constitution.”) This task, however has not been an easy one. It has been a constant battle in our court systems. AU.S.
House of Representatives committee held hearings on whether to attempt to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the flag from any form of desecration — such as burning the flag. The proposed amendment was passed, but by the end of 1998 had not obtained the necessary votes by the Senate. (Current Events Page One “The amendment must be proposed by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, and then be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of the states before it could become a part of the U.S. Constitution.”)
The nation was divided, some opinions of the people: (Current Events
Shawntel Smith, Miss America, 1996: Today it is OK, not illegal, to desecrate the symbol of our nation, the symbol of hope for the world’s people — the American flag. In fact, 80% [of people surveyed] favored an amendment to the Constitution that would provide legal protection of Old Glory…. Joseph Edward Rogers, retired Naval Reserve captain and Desert Storm veteran: I am opposed to this amendment because it does not support the freedom of expression and the right to dissent. These are core principles embodied under our Constitution that I volunteered to support and defend…. So the pride and honor I feel is not really in the flag per se. It’s in the principles that it stands for and the people who have defended them. My pride and admiration is in our country, its people and its fundamental principles….I love this country, its people, and what [the flag] stands for. But all the sacrifices of those who went before me would be for naught if an amendment were added to the Constitution that cut back on our First Amendment rights….”
While we battled for years for this amendment, it was finally obtained in 2001 by the House of Representitives (Human Events “On July 17, by a vote of 298 to 125, the House voted to propose a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the United States flag.”) However, it does not disallow the desecration of the flag, it gives Congress the authority to do so. (Human Events ” The proposed amendment, designed to override these court decisions, reads, “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”)
Represtitive Ron Paul against the amendment states, “(R.-Tex.) I had serious questions about the resolution. “I am concerned that we are going to do something here today that Castro did in Cuba for 40 years. There is a prohibition against flag-burning in Cuba. And one of the very first things that Red China did when it took over Hong Kong was to pass an amendment similar to this, to make sure there is no desecration of the Red Chinese flag. That is some of the company that we are keeping if we pass this amendment.” Paul also raised the issue of states’ rights. “Just look at the words of the amendment. Congress, more power to the Congress. Congress will get power, not the states. That is the opposite of everything we believe in, or at least profess to believe in, on this side of the aisle.”
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) spoke in support of the resolution. “The American flag serves as a unique symbol of the ideas upon which America was founded. It is a national asset that helps preserve our unity, our freedom, and our liberty as Americans. This symbol represents our country’s many hard-won freedoms, paid for with the lives of thousands of young men and women. The American people want their elected representatives to protect this cherished symbol.” love this country, I love the people, and our flag and I love what this country stands for. We are unlike any other country and always will be. As far as the amendment to our First Amendment, I am not satisfied. After years of battles this is the best our system can do for the people. I feel there really was no solution. To me it was “We couldn’t decide and don’t want to upset anyone therefore, we will put off on Congress to deal with. It is wrong to burn the flag it is that simple.
Army Lawyer and 2
April 23, 1999 and Two
St. James Encyclopedia Of Pop Culture
D. Byron Painter
S. Supreme Court Texas v Johnson
U.S. Supreme Court Street v New York
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