Main content Facts and Case Summary - Texas v. Johnson Facts and case summary for Texas v. Flag burning constitutes symbolic speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan.
Background of the case[ edit ] Johnson to right with attorney Kunstler, c. They marched through the streets, shouted chants, destroyed property, broke windows and threw trash, beer cans, soiled diapers and various other items, and held signs outside the offices of several companies.
At Texas vs johnson point, another demonstrator handed Johnson an American flag stolen from a flagpole outside one of the targeted buildings. When the demonstrators reached Dallas City Hall, Johnson poured kerosene on the flag and set it on fire.
During the burning of the flag, demonstrators shouted such phrases as, "America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you, you stand for plunder, you will go under," and, "Reagan, Mondale, which will it be?
One witness, Daniel E. Walkerreceived international attention when he collected the burned remains of the flag and buried them according to military protocol in his backyard. He appealed his conviction to the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texasbut he lost this appeal. On appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals the court overturned his conviction, saying that the State could not punish Johnson for burning the flag because the First Amendment protects such activity as symbolic speech.
The court said, "Recognizing that the right to differ is the centerpiece of our First Amendment freedoms, a government cannot mandate by fiat a feeling of unity in its citizens.
Therefore that very same government cannot carve out a symbol of unity and prescribe a set of approved messages to be associated with that symbol. Texas asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case.
Inthe Court handed down its decision. The Court first considered the question of whether the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected non-speech acts, since Johnson was convicted of flag desecration rather than verbal communication, and, if so, whether Johnson's burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, which would permit him to invoke the First Amendment in challenging his conviction.
The First Amendment specifically disallows the abridgment of "speech," but the court reiterated its long recognition that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word. This was concluded based on the case Stromberg v.
California which ruled the display of a red flag as speech, and the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District which ruled the wearing of a black armband as speech.
The Court rejected "the view that an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled 'speech' whenever the person engaging in the conduct intends thereby to express an idea," but acknowledged that conduct may be "sufficiently imbued with elements of communication to fall within the scope of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Thus, the key question considered by the Court was "whether Texas has asserted an interest in support of Johnson's conviction that is unrelated to the suppression of expression. As to the "breach of the peace" justification, however, the Court found that "no disturbance of the peace actually occurred or threatened to occur because of Johnson's burning of the flag," and Texas conceded as much.
Ohio  that the state may only punish speech that would incite "imminent lawless action," finding that flag burning does not always pose an imminent threat of lawless action.
The Court noted that Texas already punished "breaches of the peace" directly. Kennedy's concurrence[ edit ] Justice Kennedy wrote a concurrence with Brennan's opinion.
For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged against a pure command of the Constitution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. 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. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision.
This is one of those rare cases. Though symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit.
The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquistjoined by Justices Byron White and Sandra Day O'Connorargued that the "unique position" of the flag "justifies a governmental prohibition against flag burning in the way respondent Johnson did here.
The American flag, then, throughout more than years of our history, has come to be the visible symbol embodying our Nation.Texas v. Johnson: Texas v. Johnson, case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 21, , that the burning of the U.S. flag was a constitutionally protected form of speech under the U.S.
Constitution’s First Amendment. The case originated during the Republican . Texas v. Johnson, U.S. (),, was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that invalidated prohibitions on desecrating the American flag enforced in 48 of the 50 states.
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