Legal Principle at Issue
Whether Appellees' prosecution for burning a United States flag in violation of the Flag Protection Act of 1989 is consistent with the First Amendment.
Affirmed (includes modified). Petitioning party did not receive a favorable disposition.
Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989 after the Supreme Court overturned a Texas statute criminalizing the knowingly offensive destruction American flag in Texas v. Johnson. The Flag Protection Act criminalized "knowingly" mutilating, defacing, physically defiling, burning, or tampling upon an American flag. The Supreme Court found the Flag Protection Act to be unconstitutional. Although it did not contain a content-based limitation like the Texas statute did, the Government's interest in protecting the "physical integrity" of the flag in order to preserve its symbolism is related to the suppression of free expression and violates the First Amendment.
Importance of Case
Flag burning is expressive conduct, and as a result, legislation restricting the act will be subject to strict scrutiny. The description of a symbol does not diminish its meaning.