Essay PreviewMore ↓
In 1984, following a protest march through the streets of Dallas, Texas against the policies of the Reagan Administration, Gregory Lee Johnson was handed an American flag. Outside the Dallas City Hall, Johnson through the flag onto the ground, poured kerosene on it, and set fire to it. Many protesters around Johnson began a chant of, "America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you!" While many protesters agreed with what Johnson had done, there were several others who felt extremely offended. In fact, one such person felt the need to gather the remains of the flag which he then buried in his yard. The protest was a nonviolent one and no one standing nearby was hurt or threatened.
At this time, 48 of our 50 states had in place laws that prohibited the public burning of the American flag. Texas, of course, was one of these. This caused Johnson to be charged with "the desecration of a venerated object." He was found guilty and faced a sentence of a $2,000 fine and one year in prison. Johnson, appalled by this decision, appealed his case to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas. This court agreed with the prior one and ruled to have his conviction stand.
In response, the still angry Johnson appealed his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This court, unlike the previous two, found Johnson to be innocent because it found that the First Amendment protected Johnson's behavior. To arrive at this decision, the court first quickly decided that Johnson's actions feel under the First Amendment protection of free speech because it was expressive conduct. Because of this, the state would need to prove that circumstances existed which would make the state interest outweigh the First Amendment. The court found that there was not a strong enough state interest to overrule the protection of the First Amendment and overturned the previous ruling. Upset with this, The State of Texas appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court agreed to hear the case in 1988. The decision was made in 1989.
In the Supreme Court, a 5-4 decision was made in favor of Johnson. They ruled that the First Amendment did, in fact, protect this action and found that the state's interest was not compelling enough to override the amendment. The majority opinion for this case was written by William J.
How to Cite this Page
"Texas V. Johnson." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Aug 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- When it comes to Freedom of Speech, we have the ability to express ideas, thoughts, and ourselves for personal and political purposes, which is great for our civil rights and liberties. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states in relevant part, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” (Ivers, 2013) In the interim, we also have to remember, there are pros and cons to every amendment that we all have to keep in mind. We also need to keep in mind that we are accountable for our words even with “Freedom” of speech.... [tags: First Amendment to the United States Constitution]
1612 words (4.6 pages)
- Introduction Jane “Bitzi” Johnson-Miller is the prototypical, hard-charging Texas gal who has used grit and determination to work her way to the top of her field. She was the owner of a successful Dallas software company that she sold to Austin-based Dell Computer for $2.5 million in 2014. As a result, by selling to Dell, she was able to keep the money in Texas. Like many Texas women, not only is she a self-made, she earned her status as a business and community leader while a single mother successfully raising two children to adulthood.... [tags: Texas, United States, Economics, George W. Bush]
1639 words (4.7 pages)
- When Lyndon Johnson first arrived in Washington, he did so with the intent of making as many connections as possible. Johnson himself claimed that he had an uncanny ability to “immediately…evaluate the intelligence of a person and the worth and validity of his information (Kearns Goodwin, 73). He used this skill to discern whom it was best to learn what from and to acquire powerful new acquaintances. In 1935, Johnson’s connections earned him an appointment of the National Youth Administration of Texas.... [tags: Lyndon B. Johnson, Civil Rights Act of 1964]
1491 words (4.3 pages)
- The United States has always been a champion for freedom. Individual freedom and expression is the very foundation upon which this nation was founded. The First Amendment and freedom of speech is one of the American people’s most precious freedoms. However the line between the protection of free speech and that of unlawful actions are often blurred. Are speeches that incite lawlessness and chaos protected under the First Amendment. When does an act that is potentially harmful to good order and discipline no longer fall under the constitutional protection of free speech.... [tags: First Amendment to the United States Constitution]
733 words (2.1 pages)
- Is the upholding of the American flag as a symbol of the United States more important than the freedom of speech provided by the First Amendment. Are there certain freedoms of expression that are not protected under the First Amendment and if so what qualifies as freedom of speech and expression and what does not. The Supreme Court case of Texas v. Johnson proves that the First Amendment and the freedom of speech are not limited to that of spoken and written word, but also extended to symbolic speech as well.... [tags: First Amendment to the United States Constitution]
1782 words (5.1 pages)
- Texas vs. Johnson A very controversial court case in American history was Texas vs. Johnson (1984). In 1984, a man named Gregory Lee Johnson followed a group of anti – Reagan protesters to oppose the American exploitation of third world countries. This act of rebellion resulted in the burning of the American flag. Out of a total of approximately one hundred demonstrators who were involved in this ordeal, Johnson was solely charged with a crime. Johnson was arrested under Texas law, which made the burning of the United States or Texas flags crimes.... [tags: essays research papers]
699 words (2 pages)
- Texas v. Johnson (No. 88-155). Argued: March 21, 1989. Decided: June 21, 1989 In 1984 the Republican National Convention was held in Dallas, Texas. While there, a group of protesters, opposed to President Reagan's reelection, burned an American flag. Specifically, Greg Johnson was seen dousing the flag with kerosene and lighting it on fire. Johnson was arrested under a Texas flag desecration law. He was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail and fined $2000.... [tags: court cases]
1629 words (4.7 pages)
- Texas v. Johnson (1989) In 1984, following a protest march through the streets of Dallas, Texas against the policies of the Reagan Administration, Gregory Lee Johnson was handed an American flag. Outside the Dallas City Hall, Johnson through the flag onto the ground, poured kerosene on it, and set fire to it. Many protesters around Johnson began a chant of, "America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you!" While many protesters agreed with what Johnson had done, there were several others who felt extremely offended.... [tags: Flag Burning Legal Case Law]
1117 words (3.2 pages)
- U.S. Supreme Court TEXAS v. JOHNSON, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) 491 U.S. 397 Citation: Johnson was convicted of desecration of a venerated object in violation of a Texas statute. Date Decided: June 21, 1989 Facts of case: At the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, Johnson decided to burn an American flag in protest of some policies made by the Reagan administration and some Dallas corporations that he did not agree with. Noone sustained physical injury or was even threatened with physical injury, but many were offended by the jesture made by Johnson.... [tags: essays research papers]
495 words (1.4 pages)
- Justice Brennan's Opinion in Texas v. Johnson Justice Brennan cited several First Amendment cases to show that a precedent was set to encompass protection for expression which is not spoken or written (i.e., protection for symbolic actions such as protesting conflict through arm-band wearing, sit-ins, etc.). The cases cited, including the current one, were subject to the O'Brien test, which is a measure to determine if the State's statute can be considered valid, in that it specifically forbids non-communicative expression for the benefit of direct substantial government interest .... [tags: Papers, flag]
313 words (0.9 pages)
The majority opinion, written by Brennan, Jr., first states that Johnson's act constitutes speech. This precedent was set in the cases of Stromberg v. California and Tinker v. Des Moines. Both cases ruled that certain actions constituted speech. This decision came with little resistance because of these precedents. Because his action was ruled as being speech, it was therefore protected under the First Amendment unless the state of Texas could present a reason to override the amendment. The main question that needed to be argued was "whether Texas has asserted an interest in support of Johnson's conviction that is unrelated to the suppression of expression."
Texas decided to argue their case on two points. The first was that the U.S. has a "compelling interest in preserving a venerated national symbol." The second was "that the state had a compelling interest in preventing breaches of peace." This second point was quickly rejected because this act created no breach of peace nor was its intent to create immediate breaches of the peace. This ruling stems from the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio in which it was ruled that only speech that incites "imminent lawless action," may be punished. For the first point, Texas claimed that this burning of the flag degraded a national symbol and that Texas should be able to prevent this. The court did not agree with this and famously stated, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." The court therefore ruled 5-4 in favor of Johnson.
The main dissenting opinion, written by Rehnquist, states that the flag, "does not represent the views of any particular political party, and it does not represent any particular political philosophy. The flag is not simply another idea' or point of view' competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions and millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical beliefs they may have." Because of this, he states that he feels the First Amendment does not invalidate the laws of 48 out of the 50 states. Rehnquist was also quoted saying that flag burning, "is no essential part of any exposition of ideas but rather the equivalent of an inarticulate grunt or roar that is most likely to be indulged in not to express any particular idea, but to antagonize others." Basically, Rehnquist felt that there was more to this flag burning than just the protest of Reagan. He felt that it was an act done intentionally to get a reaction from others.
The decision made by the Supreme Court in this case resulted in the invalidation of the laws in 48 of 50 which prohibited the burning of the U.S. flag. Many times Congress has tried to pass amendments to protect the flag but each year they have failed. In response to this case, the 1989 Flag Protection Act was passed making it a federal crime to destroy a flag. This Act was repealed by the same 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court when it was brought to trial in the case of United States v. Eichman in 1990.
I feel that this decision was a good one. Even though I respect the flag and believe it is the greatest symbol of our nation, I understand that there are some who may feel differently. The First Amendment should protect them as much as it does me. While I may not agree with someone burning a flag, I certainly feel it is legal for them to do so, especially when it has an intended purpose such as, in this case, protesting Reagan's administration. While the flag may deserve to have some rights, the rights of the citizens of the country are more important. This case was critical to protecting the freedom of speech that we all have grown to appreciate.