Gregory Lee Johnson's Freedom Court Case

1107 words - 4 pages

The United States first amendment states, congress cannot pass a law prohibiting a citizen’s freedom of speech. In 1984, Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag to protest against Reagan during the republican national convention. He was arrested and charged with abuse of an item if the action were to provoke anger in others. Texas court tried and convicted Johnson, he appealed claiming that his behavior was protected by the first amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case. The issue was whether flag burning compromises emblematic speech secured by the first amendment.
There were three arguments drafted from the proposed question “Is flag burning protected as symbolic speech by the first amendment?” (US Courts). One of the arguments included, “ can the government prohibit the act of flag burning as an infringement on the free speech clause of the first amendment,” (US Courts). the affirmative side argued that the first amendment indeed does protect against symbolic speech but only certain situations pertain to this circumstance. They also claimed that even if the flag was personally owned the government still has a valid reason to protect this object due to what it embodies. Their philosophy was the level of symbolic speech needs to be determined in order to draw the line between criminal behavior and freedom of speech. The opposing argument to this question explains that flag burning is protected by the first amendment even if it’s privately owned. They also state that the government cannot stop flag burning as a form of protest if it does not destroy public and/or the property of others. Another argument involved with this case was,” Should flag burning as symbolic speech be prohibited as an exception to the first amendment’s free speech protections?” (US Courts). On the affirmative side the attitude toward this stance was even though freedom of speech was displayed during this activity, an exception to the first amendment should be made in this situation. The American flag is held to a maximum standard that represents a national consensus and lives lost in this country to achieve freedom. Therefore in order to protect these perceptions of the American flag the government should ban burning of the flag. The opposing side argues that there is no exception made for this particular action. They state the defendant was making a political statement when he took part in this event, the flag represents freedom of speech so why should this even be an exception to the first amendment’s protections? Last but not least, the final argument was, “Should the allowance of flag burning depend upon the reasons for and potential reactions to, the act?” (US Courts). The affirmative argument explains that flag burning is allowed if the flag is worn out in the state of Texas as long as it’s done in a recommended way. Texas has also chosen to limit this rule because it allows private flag burning but however does not allow public flag...

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