Trump considers jail, loss of citizenship for American flag burning

A 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld a protestor's right to burn the flag, but President-elect Trump might want to change that.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, the soon-to-be commander in chief shared his thoughts on American flag burning, and how there "must be consequences" for doing so.

The current law regarding flag burning derives from the Texas v. Johnson case, in which the court determined whether Gregory Lee Johnson was rightfully convicted and sentenced to one year in prison for burning a flag in protest of President Ronald Reagan. The court was presented with the issue of whether flag burning constitutes "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment.

RELATED: Donald Trump's potential Supreme Court justices

Trump potential Supreme Court justices
See Gallery
Trump potential Supreme Court justices

Judge Thomas Lee

Image courtesy of Utah Courts 

Judge Federico Moreno

Image Courtesy of  University of Miami school of Law 

UNDATED PHOTO - This undated photo, courtesy of the Alabama Attorney General's office, shows Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr. Amidst overwhelming controversy, the Senate Judiciary Committee July 30, 2003 approved, 10-9, Pryor's nomination to be a judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The nomination would grant him a lifetime seat on the Court of Appeals. (Photo by Alabama Attorney General's Office/Getty Images)

Judge Amul Thapar

Image courtesy of Vanderbilt University 

Judge David Stras

Image courtesy of th Minnesota Judicial Branch

Judge Don Willett

Image courtesy of Texas Civil Justice League 

Judge Robert Young

Image courtesy of the Michigan Courts 

Allison Eid of Colorado

(Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Diane Sykes of Wisconsin

(Photo by George Bridges/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)

Steven Colloton of Iowa

(Photo via US Government)

Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania

(Photo via Roy Engelbrecht/Wikipedia)

Raymond Kethledge of Michigan

(Photo via By SPDuffy527 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

 Senator Mike Lee of Utah

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Judge Neil Gorsuch (far Right)

(Photo by David Scull/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Judge Margaret A Ryan 

Image Courtesy of Birmingham Southern College

Edward Mansfield of Iowa

Image Courtesy of The American Law Institute

Keith Blackwell of Georgia

Image Courtesy of Georgia Supreme Court 

Timothy Tymkovich of Colorado

Image Courtesy of the Supreme Court of Colorado 

House Manager Charles Canady on Capitol Hill January 25.
Justice Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at his memorial service at the Mayflower Hotel March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. Justice Scalia died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)

In a watershed First Amendment decision, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of Johnson, upholding the Texas appellate court's stance.

Joined by Justices Thurgood Marshall, Harry A. Blackmun, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice William J. Brennan wrote the majority opinion, stating, "The First Amendment literally forbids the abridgment only of 'speech,' but we have long recognized that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word."

In dissent, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Stevens, Justice White and Justice O'Connor argued the flag's unique status as a symbol of national unity outweighed "symbolic speech" concerns. Therefore, the government could lawfully prohibit flag burning.

As recently as 2006, Congress attempted to amend the Constitution to prohibit flag desecration, with the effort failing in the Senate by one vote.

With a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, Donald Trump will have the ability to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice in his first term. A conservative-leaning Supreme Court could mean potential constitutional amendments to laws regarding abortion, climate change and the First Amendment.

While it is unclear what spurred Trump's 7 a.m. tweet, Hampshire College in Massachusetts recently decided to cease flag flying on campus after one was burned in the wake of the billionaire businessman's election victory.

When asked about the issue in a Tuesday morning interview with CNN, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) said he disagreed with the president-elect, saying, "I don't think we want to make this a legal issue."


Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.