Johnson vs. Texas

This case is a series among many other which have looked into the issue of discretion of American flag. There have been previous cases like Halter v. Nebraks (1907), Stromberg v. California (1931), Street v New York (1969), Spence v. Washington (1974) and Smith v. Goguen (1974) which all looked into the issue of discretion of American flags. It is due to series of such cases that the congress decided to pass the Federal Flag Desecration Law (1968) which mandates the congress to protect the any instances of desecration of American flag.

In a 1984 Republican National Convention, Johnson was one of the demonstrators who expressed their dissatisfaction with the Reagan administration policies and most of Dallas based corporations (Find Law, 2010).  After the demonstrators matched through the city stress, Johnson apparently expressed his anger and dissatisfaction by burning American flag while the rest of the protestors chanted their messages towards the convention. It is important to express that although there was no one who was injured by in the protest, most of  us who witnessed the incidence felt serious offended by burning of our national flag.  I want to state clearly before this court that this amounts to desecration of American flag and the accused must be judged in reference to Federal Flag Desecration Law (1968). The law clears states that the federal government has the power to protect any action that amounts to desecration of American flag and the action of the accused amounts to such an action.

In line with previous court rulings, this court should a precedent that will set forth the difference between individual expression and respect for national symbols. One of the provision cases that have come close to this case was Street v. New York (1969) where  the court showed  that though the government may not ban the use of words on flags, it was still not clear what the government  could do in case of an action involving American flag. The court did not rule whether the government had the power to criminalize any action that amounted to contempt or disrespect of American flag which acts as a symbol of national unity.  Therefore, the buck stops with the court to rule whether the action of the accused acted in violation and contempt of American flag. Although the government cannot ban words using in relation to American flag, I believe it the power to ban action on the flag in light of the Federal Flag Desecration Law (1968).

While this court clearly understands that the accused was doing the act in reference to the first amendment which advances the rights to freedom of speech and expression among the citizens, this court has previously ruled in number of cases which have shown that it really upholds the freedom of speech. In Texas court ruling of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the court showed that the right to different is a basic provision of the First Amendment. Therefore every individual in the country has the right to different from an opinion but it does not mean that in expression of provision of first amendment, individual has to hurt others.  Though Halter v. Nebraska (1907) court ruling did not directly relate to burning of American flag, it is evident that the court ruling gave the state the right to ban use of American flag not only in commercial ways but also in other ways that directly disrespected the flag (Head, 2010).

Our flag is a symbol of unity. The government cannot rally the support of citizens to unit behind the flags, as a symbol of unity, if it cannot rally the same citizens to respect the flag as a symbol of unity.  I would like this court to note that the act of accused to burn the American flag was not an essential part of expression and exposition of ideas (Cline, 2010). This act had a tendency to lower the significance of the flag to foster unity among the citizens but it incited a breach of peace.

While it was the right of the accused to express his dislike with the government policies, he could have used other means which could not have hurt the witnesses than burning an American flag. The act of burning the flag publicly with intention of conveying a message is guilty of desecration of the flag (Law, 2010). The accused may have used the act of burning the flag because he understood it was likely to cause more concern and therefore attention to his message. However, set a bad precedent among other citizens since many more people are likely to result to the same means to express their dissatisfaction. This will further lower the significance of the flag as more and more actors result to burning of flags to express their dissatisfaction.

While the conduct of the accused can be considered as an expressive conduct that was merely meant to express his dissatisfaction the government policies, the way it was expressed was contrary to provision of the constitution and infringed on the rights of the nation and of other Americans as well (Luckey, 2003).  It is the duty of the state to set forwards a precedent that protects the citizens from acts that are likely to breach their confidence of national symbols.

In light of the above facts it is therefore the discretion of this court to make ruling based on the facts given. The court should understand that the ruling on this case will be important as it will guide the state in such future case. It will also set a precedent on how the citizens should handle the handle such cases in the future.

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