Argued: Texas v. Johnson. Does the state have the authority to make it a crime to burn an American flag, even as part of a political protest and as a means for expressing a political opinion? The Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that the state has no such authority and that people do have a right to burn flags as part of their general free speech rights.
Most states have at this time banned flag burning as part of statutes generally outlawing flag desecration. In 1984, during Republican convention in Dallas, Texas, Gregory Lee (Joey) Johnson burned an American flag it in front of the convention building as a protest against the polices of Ronald Reagan. He was arrested, convicted, fined, and sentenced to jail.
In ruling in favor of him in his appeals, the Supreme Court will write:
"The way to preserve the flag's special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong. ...
We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own, no better way to counter a flag burner's message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by - as one witness here did - according its remains a respectful burial.
We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents."
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