国家是否有权将烧毁美国国旗定为犯罪？它是否是政治抗议的一部分或表达政治观点的手段是否重要？ 1984年共和党全国代表大会在德克萨斯州达拉斯举行。在会议大楼前，格雷戈里·李（乔伊）约翰逊在煤油中浸泡了一面美国国旗并在抗议罗纳德·里根的政策时将其烧毁。其他抗议者通过高喊“美国;红白和蓝;我们吐了你。“约翰逊根据德克萨斯州的一项法律被逮捕并被定罪，有意或故意亵渎州或国旗。他被罚款2000美元，被判入狱一年。这些是1989年德克萨斯诉约翰逊案的最高法院案件中提出的问题。这是一项具有里程碑意义的决定，对许多州法律中禁止的亵渎标志提出质疑。他向德克萨斯州最高法院提出上诉，认为它有权保护国旗作为国家统一的象征。约翰逊认为，他表达自己的自由保护了他的行为。最高法院裁定5比4支持约翰逊。他们拒绝了这样一种说法，即禁止这种禁令是为了保护因焚烧国旗而导致的和平破坏。国家的立场……相当于一种说法，即在特定表达中采取严重罪行的听众必然会扰乱和平，并且可能在此基础上禁止表达。我们的先例不支持这种推定。相反，他们认识到，在我们的政府体制下，言论自由的主要功能是引发争议。它可能确实最好地服务于它的高目的，当它引起不安的状况，对条件产生不满，或者……甚至激起人们的愤怒。“德克萨斯声称他们需要保留国旗作为民族团结的象征。通过承认约翰逊表达了一个不受欢迎的想法，这破坏了他们的情况。由于法律规定，如果“演员知道它会严重冒犯一个或多个人”，亵渎是非法的，法院认为国家保留该符号的企图与企图压制某些信息有关。 “约翰逊对国旗的处理是否违反了德克萨斯州的法律，因此取决于他的表达行为可能产生的交流影响。”如果第一修正案存在基本原则，那就是政府可能不会因为社会发现而禁止表达一个想法这个想法本身令人反感或不愉快。对约翰逊等行为进行严厉的刑事处罚不会危及我们国旗所扮演的特殊角色或其所激发的感情。 ……我们的决定是重申国旗最能反映的自由和包容性原则，并坚信我们对约翰逊等批评的容忍是我们力量的标志和源泉。保持国旗特殊角色的方法不是惩罚那些对这些事情有不同看法的人。这是为了说服他们说错了。 ……我们可以想象没有比燃烧国旗更适当的反应而不是挥舞自己的旗帜，没有更好的办法来对付旗帜燃烧器的信息，而不是向燃烧的旗帜致敬，甚至没有保证尊重燃烧的旗帜的尊严。作为一个证人在这里做了 – 根据它的遗骸是一个尊重的葬礼。我们不会通过惩罚它的亵渎来使国旗神圣化，因为这样做会削弱这个珍贵的会徽所代表的自由。禁止焚烧旗帜的支持者表示，他们并没有试图禁止表达令人反感的想法，只是禁止身体行为。这意味着亵渎十字架可能是非法的，因为它只禁止身体行为，并且可以使用其他表达相关想法的方法。但是，很少会接受这种说法。焚烧国旗就像是一种亵渎的形式，或者“妄称主的名字”，它需要一些尊重并将其转化为基础，亵渎和不值得尊重的东西。这就是为什么人们看到旗帜被烧毁时会如此生气。这也是燃烧或亵渎受到保护的原因 – 就像亵渎一样。
Does the state have the authority to make it a crime to burn an American flag? Does it matter if it’s part of a political protest or a means for expressing a political opinion? The 1984 Republican National Convention took place in Dallas, Texas. In front of the convention building, Gregory Lee (Joey) Johnson soaked an American flag in kerosene and burned it while protesting the policies of Ronald Reagan. Other protesters accompanied this by chanting “America; red, white and blue; we spit on you.” Johnson was arrested and convicted under a Texas law against intentionally or knowingly desecrating a state or national flag. He was fined $2000 and sentenced to one year in jail. These were the questions posed in the 1989 Supreme Court case of Texas v. Johnson. It was a landmark decision that brought into question the bans on flag desecration found in the laws of many states. He appealed to the Supreme Court where Texas argued that it had a right to protect the flag as a symbol of national unity. Johnson argued that his freedom to express himself protected his actions. The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of Johnson. They rejected the claim that the ban was necessary to protect breaches of the peace due to the offense that burning a flag would cause. The State’s position … amounts to a claim that an audience that takes serious offense at particular expression is necessarily likely to disturb the peace and that the expression may be prohibited on this basis. Our precedents do not countenance such a presumption. On the contrary, they recognize that a principal “function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or … even stirs people to anger.” Texas claimed that they needed to preserve the flag as a symbol of national unity. This undermined their case by conceding that Johnson was expressing a disfavored idea. Since the law stated that desecration is illegal if “the actor knows it will seriously offend one or more persons,” the court saw that the state’s attempt to preserve the symbol was tied to an attempt to suppress certain messages. “Whether Johnson’s treatment of the flag violated Texas law thus depended on the likely communicative impact of his expressive conduct.” If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. Orbidding criminal punishment for conduct such as Johnson’s will not endanger the special role played by our flag or the feelings it inspires. … Our decision is a reaffirmation of the principles of freedom and inclusiveness that the flag best reflects, and of the conviction that our toleration of criticism such as Johnson’s is a sign and source of our strength. The way to preserve the flag’s special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong. … We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one’s own, no better way to counter a flag burner’s message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by – as one witness here did – according its remains a respectful burial. We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents. Supporters of bans on flag burning say they aren’t trying to ban the expression of offensive ideas, just the physical acts. This means that desecrating a cross could be outlawed because it only bans physical acts and other means of expressing the relevant ideas can be used. Few, though, would accept this argument. Burning the flag is like a form of blasphemy or “taking the Lord’s name in vain,” It takes something revered and transforms it into something base, profane, and unworthy of respect. This is why people are so offended when they see a flag being burned. It is also why burning or desecration is protected — just as blasphemy is.