First Amendment, United States Constitution

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Prompt: To what extent do you agree with the current law regarding the legality of the burning of the American flag as a demonstration or protest? Explain your reasoning. Use evidence from at least three of the sources provided.

Your writing should be clear and concise. It should use appropriate vocabulary and tone. Be sure to think, plan, organize, write and proofread.

  1. First Amendment, United States Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  1. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire

  1. Texas v. Johnson, 1989

Outside the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Gregory Lee Johnson burned a flag in protest against President Ronald Reagan's policies. Johnson soaked an American flag in kerosene and burned it in front of the convention building. Other protesters accompanied this by chanting “America; red, white and blue; we spit on you.”

Arrested and convicted under a Texas law against intentionally or knowingly desecrating a state or national flag, Johnson was fined $2000 and sentenced to one year in jail. He appealed to the Supreme Court where Texas argued that it had a right to protect the flag as a symbol of national unity. Johnson argued that his freedom to express himself protected his actions. In its 5-4 ruling in Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court struck down flag desecration laws in 48 states by ruling that flag desecration is a constitutionally protected form of free speech.

  1. “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.”
    -- Justice William J. Brennan, from his majority opinion in Texas v. Johnson (1989)

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