One of the more controversial forms of protest in this country is the burning of the American flag.
If President Donald Trump gets his way, however, those who set fire to the stars and stripes would be required to spend a solid 365 days behind bars, a sanction he he suggested this weekend at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to Breitbart.
Controversial form of protest
For patriots in this country, there is nothing worse than watching an American flag being burned in protest, and it should be noted that flag burning was not always something tolerated in this country.
The practice only became “protected” free speech on June 21, 1989, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in favor of Gregory Lee Johnson, a man who burned a flag at 1984’s Republican National Convention in Dallas.
The court decided that burning the flag was rightly considered to be symbolic speech, and therefore, is an act protected by the First Amendment.
The majority decision was written by Justice William J. Brennan, Jr, a Dwight D. Eisenhower appointee, and the opinion was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, and Antonin Scalia.
In a concurring opinion to the majority ruling, Kennedy wrote, “The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result.”
Could it happen?
Trump’s declaration definitely makes for a great soundbite, but practically speaking, there is not much chance of his wish coming true.
While many members of Congress surely abhor the practice of flag burning, and many of our military members cringe whenever it occurs, they also respect the right of Americans to protest and to speak freely.
Though an amendment to the Constitution banning flag burning is theoretically possible, it is unlikely that the requisite majority in Congress would get behind such a measure, considering the precedent already put in place by the Supreme Court.
Every so often, the issue rears its head again, and flag burning bans are proposed, but they fail to gain the traction needed to effect change.
In the end, perhaps the best we can hope for is that those with grievances to air against the United States government can find a less incendiary way to get their point across.