A man pulled down a rainbow pride flag from a U.S. Representative’s Capitol Hill office yesterday.
The man, who has not yet been identified, entered the office of Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). The man told staff members that the rainbow flag is “immoral” and “disgusting,” especially since the rainbow flag was being displayed near that American flag, Lowenthal said.
He then grabbed the flag, threw it on the ground, and repeatedly stepped on it.
Facts and Case Summary - Texas v. Johnson
FactsGregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others. A Texas court tried and convicted Johnson. He appealed, arguing that his actions were "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case.
IssueWhether flag burning constitutes "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment.
The majority of the Court, according to Justice William Brennan, agreed with Johnson and held that flag burning constitutes a form of "symbolic speech" that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority noted that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society's outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech.
In particular, the majority noted that the Texas law discriminated upon viewpoint, i.e., although the law punished actions, such as flag burning, that might arouse anger in others, it specifically exempted from prosecution actions that were respectful of venerated objects, e.g., burning and burying a worn-out flag. The majority said that the government could not discriminate in this manner based solely upon viewpoint.