I won’t name names because nobody involved deserves the free publicity, but some idiots at an eastern college burned a flag yesterday. Immediately, the usual crew of opposing idiots got all in a wad about what should be done to flag burners. Facebook lit up with the usual denunciations of sickening acts by sick people. It’s easy to come down on the side of the angels when no decent citizens actually “like” seeing the flag burned.
Our President Elect, not busy enough with selecting a cabinet, punishing Mitt Romney, and trying to read the Constitution, naturally felt the need to weigh in with a tweet about how “there must be consequences- perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!”
Keeping the secret service on the run, all the way from Trump Tower to Washington to Florida, must be wearing on the man’s brain. This issue was settled almost twenty-eight years ago.
Way back in the last century, 1984 to be exact, Gregory Lee Johnson, burned an American flag as a protest during the Republican National Convention. Johnson got his point across (he didn’t like President Reagan), and several people testified that they were offended. As a result, Johnson was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $2,000. He got a lawyer and appealed. As the case worked its way up through the courts, he lost, he won, he won, and eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the Texas law banning flag burning was unconstitutional. Congress tried to get around that by passing a Flag Protection Act, but it too was ruled unconstitutional— Not surprising considering the freedoms that flag stands for. A series of attempts all failed precisely because of what the flag stands for… that right of free speech. Even if you’re just making an ass of yourself.
As an aside, the President Elect’s hero, Justice Antonin Scalia was on the side of the flag burners, at least legally. In an interview, he said “Burning the flag is a form of expression.” Interestingly in this era of He who shall not be named, he added “If I were king, I wouldn’t go about letting people burn the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged, and it is addressed, in particular to speech critical of the government. I mean, that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.”