Flag and Cross Burning as Free Speech Issues Essay

Flag and Cross Burning as Free Speech Issues Essay

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The first ten amendments to the Constitution better known as The Bill of Rights were developed by the Founding Fathers in order to protect specific rights of the people of that time. The First Amendment protected speech, religion and expression. The First Amendment was most probably protecting scientific discourse, music, literature and the arts of elite white males. In 1791, there was no protection implied or otherwise for women or black slaves. The cross burning of the Ku Klux Klan or flag burning of American citizens was not a consideration of the Founding Fathers. The First Amendment has evolved over many years into the protector it is for the citizens of the United States.

Forty-seven states in the United States have laws prohibiting burning the American Flag. The Supreme Court has invalidated these state statutes two times. Most notably the case of Texas v Johnson a 1989 case presented by William Kunstler of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It was a 5-4 decision overturning the lower court decision and invalidating the Texas law. The First Amendment alone would not have been sufficient to overturn the law because this is a state law that was not initially protected by the First Amendment (Barron V. Baltimore (1833)). The First Amendment refers to laws made by Congress. The Fourteenth Amendment (ratified in 1868) along with the First Amendment is what gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction in this matter. The Supreme Court decided this case in the majority opinion that because the flag is only a symbol and provided the desecration of this symbol does not present a clear and present danger to the public welfare it is deemed protected by the First Amendment. The dissenting opinion stated that the flag i...


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...ho see this occur. Flag burning may instill anger but that is the nature of the First Amendment. It is no different from a protest of abortion, the war, or the KKK marching down Main Street in their sheets.

In conclusion, no society can survive and thrive when absolute power is given to the governing body. In fact, that fear was the premise for the Bill of Rights. As the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Understanding this leads to the realization that civil liberties are the most precious and frail of rights and must be protected at all costs. The blood of our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers of all races, creeds and colors has paid for civil liberties in this country, but a great society is one that knows to protect its oppressed or formerly oppressed even if some of these precious civil liberties get trampled in the process.

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