Johnson's expression of dissatisfaction with the Federal Government's policies also does not fall within the class of "fighting words" likely to be seen as a direct personal insult or an invitation to exchange fisticuffs. That tarnish is not justified by the trivial burden on free expression occasioned by requiring that an available, alternative mode of expression -- including uttering words critical of the flag, 394 U. The statutory prohibition of flag desecration does not prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. Accordingly, one intending to convey a message of respect for the flag by burning it in a public square might nonetheless be guilty of desecration if he knows that others -- perhaps simply because they misperceive the intended message -- will be seriously offended.This Court's holding does not forbid a State to prevent "imminent lawless action" and, in fact, Texas has a law specifically prohibiting breaches of the peace. (c) The latter interest does not justify Johnson's conviction. BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. Indeed, even if the actor knows that all possible witnesses will understand that he intends to send a message of respect, he might still be guilty of desecration if he also knows that this understanding does not lessen the offense taken by some of those witnesses.The court concluded that the State could not criminally sanction flag desecration in order to preserve the flag as a symbol of national unity. It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of goodwill for other peoples who share our aspirations.It also held that the statute did not meet the State's goal of preventing breaches of the peace, since it was not drawn narrowly enough to encompass only those flag burnings that would likely result in a serious disturbance, and since the flag burning in this case did not threaten such a reaction. The symbol carries its message to dissidents both at home and abroad who may have no interest at all in our national unity or survival.See full summary » A debauched Hollywood movie actor tries to piece together one wild night in Miami years earlier which remains a drug-induced blur, and soon finds out that some questions about his past are best left unanswered.An artist slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the streets of New York after dark and randomly killing derelicts with a power drill.No one was physically injured or threatened with injury, though several witnesses testified that they had been seriously offended by the flag burning. Code §§ 16-17-220, 16-17-230 (1985 and Supp.1988); S. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach.[p400] Of the approximately 100 demonstrators, Johnson alone was charged with a crime. After a trial, he was convicted, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined ,000. If those ideas are worth fighting for -- and our history demonstrates that they are -- it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration. * The Court suggests that a prohibition against flag desecration is not content-neutral, because this form of symbolic speech is only used by persons who are critical of the flag or the ideas it represents.
After a march through the city streets, Johnson burned an American flag while protesters chanted. § 42.09 (1989) may not satisfy those intent on finding fault at any cost, [it is] set out in terms that the ordinary person exercising ordinary common sense can sufficiently understand and comply with. As the Court analyzes this case, it presents the question whether the State of Texas, or indeed the Federal Government, has the power to prohibit the public desecration of the American flag. In my judgment, rules that apply to a host of other symbols, such as state flags, armbands, or various privately promoted emblems of political or commercial identity, are not necessarily controlling.
The demonstration ended in front of Dallas City Hall, where Johnson unfurled the American flag, doused it with kerosene, and set it on fire. The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B.
While the flag burned, the protestors chanted, "America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you." After the demonstrators dispersed, a witness to the flag burning collected the flag's remains and buried them in his backyard. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T.
Occurring as it did at the end of a demonstration coinciding with the Republican National Convention, the expressive, overtly political nature of the conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent. An interest in preventing breaches of the peace is not implicated on this record. Conceivably, that value will be enhanced by the Court's conclusion that our national commitment to free expression is so strong that even the United States, as ultimate guarantor of that freedom, is without power to prohibit the desecration of its unique symbol. The creation of a federal right to post bulletin boards and graffiti on the Washington Monument might enlarge the market for free expression, but at a cost I would not pay. The statute does not compel any conduct or any profession of respect for any idea or any symbol. The content of respondent's message has no relevance whatsoever to the case.
Expression may not be prohibited [p398] on the basis that an audience that takes serious offense to the expression may disturb the peace, since the Government cannot assume that every expression of a provocative idea will incite a riot, but must look to the actual circumstances surrounding the expression. Similarly, in my considered judgment, sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value -- both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it. It is appropriate to emphasize certain propositions that are not implicated by this case. [p438] Nor does the statute violate "the government's paramount obligation of neutrality in its regulation of protected communication." 427 U. The concept of "desecration" does not turn on the substance of the message the actor intends to convey, but rather on whether those who view the will take serious offense.