Flag Burning Still Protected Speech

Donnie O’Sullivan, writing for CNN, reports on the recent controversy surrounding Bryton Mellot, a 22-year old Illinois resident who burned an American flag.

Mellot was arrested on Sunday, July 3, by police in Urbana, Illinois. Arresting officers claimed that they had received complaints from social media users who were offended by content  Mellot posted which included a picture of Mellot holding a flaming American flag along with a description explaining his motivations and decrying “blind nationalism.”

According to O’Sullivan’s article, police arrested Mellot for violating an Illinois flag desecration law, and did so in order to “try to assure the safety of the public and Mr. Mellott.”

However, Mellot was not charged  because, as O’Sullivan writes, the 2013 flag desecration law is “contradictory to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that deemed flag burning protected by the First Amendment.”

That decision, Texas v. Johnson, declared flag-burning a form of protected “symbolic speech.” Further cases, such as United States v. Eichman, have reinforced this right to burn the flag symbolically.

In a truly free society, even speech which is profoundly disagreeable to the majority of people must be protected in order to properly preserve  freedom of speech for all.

More Blog Posts

04-16-2019 11:37am

New Survey Reveals American Consumers Support Businesses Hiring Those with Criminal Records

New research from SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute found that the vast majority of American consumers support purchasing goods and services from businesses that employ people with non-violent criminal records.

Read more

04-04-2019 03:05pm

On 70th Anniversary of NATO, Key Member States Question Its Relevancy and Efficacy

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) celebrates its 70th anniversary, and in advance of this historical commemoration, a new survey asked respondents in key NATO member states about NATO’s effectiveness and relevance in today’s world.

Read more

04-01-2019 05:29pm

Protecting Protest: How Proposed Rules Would Chill Free Expression Around DC Landmarks

Given the timeless importance of protecting civil liberties, the Charles Koch Institute today joins the ACLU in voicing concern about a proposed National Park Service (NPS) rule that could hinder free speech and peaceful assembly around DC landmarks.

Read more

Sign up for updates