Opinion: Should Flag Burning be Legal?

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By: Fletcher D. and Ella R.

The flames of heated politics are starting to die down, but it seems the flames have found their way to a new host: the American Flag. There have been two major cases that came before the supreme court regarding flag burning/desecration, they were Texas v. Johnson (1989) and United States v. Eichman (1990). Texas v. Johnson overruled a ruling that made flag desecration legal in the State of Texas. United States v. Eichman was a ruling that said prohibiting flag desecration was a violation of the first amendment, and made it legal throughout the country.

President-elect Donald Trump sent out a tweet on November 29 of this year regarding his opinion of flag burning. He had this to say “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

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We have a bit of a different opinion from President-elect Trump:

Ella: In my opinion flag burning should be completely legal. While I may find the act absurdly disgusting and disrespectful, I believe that our Constitutional Rights should be held sacrosanct above the views of only some. Our freedom of speech has been dishonored in the past, and any future laws censoring or banning our expression must be stopped.

Freedom of speech bares many ugly faces (such as being allowed to protest at veteran’s funeral, Snyder v. Phelps, or the permittance of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic speech) but it has also granted the passage of some wondrous change (The Civil Rights Movement, for example). We must endure the negative speech if we are to experience the benefits that come with our Constitutional Right.

Fletcher: Flag burning is the most disgraceful thing that one can do to our great country. It has been a growing trend in 2016, and it will hopefully come to an end soon. It is commonly used as a form of “protest” albeit a horrendous one. People scream and laugh as the stars and stripes of Old Glory heat up and wither away to nothing. I sincerely hope they realize the affect of their actions. A protestor sees a piece of nylon fabric on fire. A veteran sees all of their work and sacrifice thrown to waste by a disgraceful human being burning the world-wide symbol of freedom. If you burn our flag then you can just leave. You can’t be forced to leave, but if you really hate our great country to the point where you will burn our flag, then you obviously do not want to be here, and we don’t want you here.

On the other side of the coin, we have a constitution that binds us together. Under the first amendment, you are in fact protected if you want to burn a flag. You are so protected, that you can make a bonfire of flags in the back of a pickup truck and get a police escort as you drive to the gates of the White House. This privilege is not held by any one person. Any protest you want to make will grant you police protection from anti-protesters. As long as it does not turn violent, you can protest whatever you want. Whether you are anti-police, anti-American, a neo-nazi or a member of the KKK, you can peacefully say and do whatever you want, according to the first amendment. And yes, burning a flag is also protected. Upholding the rights of the citizens of the USA is paramount.

But, if you are willing to uphold the constitution like this, do not disregard it in any other way; if you stick up for the first, then do not slack on the second, third, etc. The constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” and people calling for flag burning to be a punishable offense are violating it. These same people may stick up for the constitution in other areas. One cannot chose what they follow in this document; you are either following it all down to every last letter, or you are not following it at all.

Justice Antonin Scalia was the deciding vote on Texas v. Johnson. At a Union League in an event moderated by Princeton University’s Robert George, he said “If it were up to me, I would put in jail every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag,” Scalia said. “But I am not king.”

So if you want to burn a flag, go bananas.

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