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Flag Desecration

A Guide to Selected Government and Legal Information

Web version of this guide includes links to web resources.

Federal Government Information
Flag Protection Amendment

The House Subcommittee on the Constitution met to hear testimony on H.J. Res. 4, authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the American flag. 2003
Y 4.J 89/1:108/20

Letting the People Decide: The Constitutional Amendment Authorizing Congress to Prohibit the Physical Desecration of the Flag of the United States

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary convened to hear testimony on S.J. Res. 4, the bipartisan proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit the physical desecration of the American flag. 2004
Y 4.J 89/2:S.HRG.108-812

Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution Authorizing Congress to Prohibit the Physical Desecration of the Flag

This proposed amendment to the Constitution does not expressly forbid flag desecration but, rather, grants Congress the ability to prohibit it. Statements are heard from those in favor of and those opposed to this amendment, including free expression activists, war veterans, and various members of the Citizens Flag Alliance, among others. 1998
Y 4.J 89/2:S. HRG. 105-924

The Tradition and Importance of Protecting the United States Flag

A historical look at U.S. respect for its flag and a discussion of the need for a Constitutional amendment to protect it. 1998
Y 4.J 89/2:S. HRG. 105-608

H.J. Res. 54: Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Authorizing Congress to Prohibit the Physical Desecration of the Flag of the United States

A hearing of testimonies by supporters and opponents of Congressional protection of the American flag. Present are numerous Medal of Honor recipients and members of the Citizens Flag Alliance and the Nebraska American Legion Auxiliary, among others. 1997
Y 4.J 89/1:105/50

Flag Desecration Amendment to the Constitution

Participants in this hearing evaluate the need for a constitutional amendment to allow Congress and the States to protect the U.S. flag. Input is received from attorneys, a columnist, Congressmen, the Citizens Flag Alliance, and professors. A submitted statement from the Citizens Flag Alliance indicates that five Gallup polls done since 1989 show that 80% of Americans surveyed favor a flag protection amendment and 49 of 50 States have passed resolutions asking Congress to pass H.J. Res. 79 and send it back to the States for ratification. 1995
Y 4.J 89/1:104/96

Proposing A Constitutional Amendment Authorizing the States and Congress to Prohibit the Physical Desecration of the Flag

This hearing on S.J. Res. 31, a proposal to prohibit physical desecration of the flag, offers both sides of the issue.1995
Y 4.J 89/2:S. HRG. 104-734

Legal Information
"The Economics of Desecration: Flag Burning and Related Activities"

The author of this article argues that, when a symbol is desecrated, the desecrator obtains benefits and the person opposed to the action incurs cost. Regarding desecration and the imposition of penalties, it is his contention that the costs do outweigh the benefits; however, he believes that laws prohibiting desecration are no more and no less efficient than other laws. All laws hurt some people while helping others; thus, all laws should be examined within the political process. 1998
The Journal of Economic Studies. Vol. 27, No. 2, Pt. 1 June 1998 pp. 245-269

Our Flag

A look at the history of the U.S. flag and its laws and regulations. Title 36, Chapter 10 of the U.S. Code, reprinted in this publication, pertains to Patriotic Customs and includes respect for the flag. Also provided here is The American's Creed, stipulating respect for the flag. 1998

18 USC Section 700

United States law regarding desecration of the U.S. flag and the penalties imposed upon violators.

Texas v. Johnson

Supreme Court ruling that the conviction of a demonstrator for burning a U.S. flag violated his First Amendment rights.
491 US 397 (1989)

U.S. v. Eichman, Blalock, and Tyler

Upholding Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court invalidated the Flag Protection Act of 1989.
496 US 310 (1990)

Smoller and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech

Sections 11:9 through 11:18 of this treatise detail the extensive laws and litigation surrounding the controversy of flag desecration. Case law is examined from 1907 to 1990.
LEGL REF KF 4772.N 54 1996 v. 1

Wisconsin v. Janssen

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court's dismissal of flag desecration charges against Matthew C. Janssen, who admitted to stealing numerous U.S. flags and defecating upon one of them, by concluding that Wisconsin's flag desecration statute was overbroad and unconstitutional. In a June 25, 1998 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court subsequently upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals in Wisconsin v. Janssen.
570 NW 2d 746 (1997)
580 NW 2d 260 (1998)

Flag Protection Act of 1989

The purpose of the Act was to protect the American flag from mutilation, defacement, and defilement; however, it was subsequently declared unconstitutional by U.S. v. Eichman.

Treatise on Constitutional Law: Substance and Procedure

This multi-volume, indexed set is a thorough examination of the many facets of Constitutional Law, including freedom of speech and symbolic speech. Section 20.49 examines the boundaries of First Amendment protection for symbolic speech and includes discussion of flag burning. The history of flag desecration statutes is provided, and many pertinent cases are discussed.
LEGL REF 4550 .R63 1999 v.4 pp. 646-653

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