Trump ignores constitution, says flag-burners must be punished.
President-elect Donald Trump wants people who burn the American flag to either go to jail or have their citizenship revoked, despite the fact that two US Supreme Court rulings protect the act of flag burning as a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constituion.
Trump tweeted the following Tuesday morning:
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
(Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!)
Trump’s demand is misguided and misinformed, laws prohibiting the burning or desecration of the American flag have been struck down on two separate occasions by the Supreme Court.
CNN reports the Supreme Court has twice affirmed the right to desecrate the American flag as a form of free speech, once in 1989, and once in 1990:
In the 1989 case “Texas v. Johnson,” the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that flag burning was a form of “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. The ruling came after an appeal from Gregory Johnson, who had been convicted by a Texas court of violating a state law that prohibited the “desecration of a venerated object” such as the US flag.
The following year, in “United states v. Eichman,” the top court again affirmed the right to burn the flag when it ruled 5-4 that the Flag Protection Act of 1989 — passed by Congress in response to the Johnson decision — was unconstitutional.
Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyst and professor at the University of Texas Law School, said Trump’s suggestion that people who burn the American flag have their citizenship revoked as a penalty is a non-starter:
In addition to ignoring the Supreme Court’s clear teaching that flag burning is constitutionally protected speech, Mr. Trump’s tweet also casually suggests that citizens should lose their citizenship as a ‘penalty’ for such acts. Even if flag burning wasn’t protected, it would still be unconstitutional to deprive someone of their citizenship without some voluntary act on their part to renounce their allegiance to the United States or pledge fealty to a foreign sovereign.
Bottom line: Trump once again demonstrates a careless and ignorant disregard for the U.S. Constitution. As such, he is unfit and unqualified to serve as commander-in-chief.