Accession Number:

ADA465505

Title:

Flag Protection: A Brief History and Summary of Recent Supreme Court Decisions and Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2005-05-19

Pagination or Media Count:

11.0

Abstract:

Many Members of Congress see continued tension between free speech decisions of the Supreme Court, which protect flag desecration as expressive conduct under the First Amendment, and the symbolic importance of the United States flag. Consequently, every Congress that has convened since those decisions were issued has considered proposals that would permit punishment of those who engage in flag desecration. The 106th Congress narrowly failed to send a constitutional amendment to allow punishment of flag desecration to the States. In the 107th and 108th Congresses, such proposals were passed by the House. This report is divided into two parts. The first gives a brief history of the flag protection issue, from the enactment of the Flag Protection Act in 1968 through current consideration of a constitutional amendment. The second part briefly summarizes the two decisions of the United States Supreme Court, Texas v. Johnson and United States v. Eichman, that struck down the state and federal flag protection statutes as applied in the context punishing expressive conduct. In 1968, Congress reacted to the numerous public flag burnings in protest of the Vietnam conflict by passing the first federal flag protection act of general applicability. For the next 20 years, the lower courts upheld the constitutionality of this statute and the Supreme Court declined to review these decisions. However, in Texas v. Johnson, the majority of the Court held that a conviction for flag desecration under a Texas statute was inconsistent with the First Amendment and affirmed a decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that barred punishment for burning the flag as part of a public demonstration.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE