Is Flag-Burning Constitutionally Protected?

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The United States is well-known for its principles of freedom and democracy, which is demonstrated through the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Thus, American citizens can openly discuss political matters; criticize the President and his Cabinet on television, radio talk show or in the newspaper; or publicly protest against the government tax policy. However, Free Speech protection becomes debatable when some American citizens burn the nation’s flag to express their disagreement to the government. The act of burning the American Flag should be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause because the act is a symbolic expression that communicates an individual’s idea or opinion about his nation; and that…show more content…
This debate has been a major one before and after the decision of Supreme Court on this case. II. Flag burning as a symbolic act, symbolic counter speech and the original meaning of the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause a) Flag burning is a symbolic act The act of burning the American flag is definitely a symbolic expression for the flag itself is symbolic by definition and expression is the purpose of the flag (Arbukle, 22). In other words, the American flag represents the nation’s symbol and the individual acts on it to express ideas or political opinions. According to Mark Arbukle, displaying the flag is a form of symbolic expression, so it would be unfair and illogical if burning the flag is not a symbolic expression. Using the same logic, if burning the flag is restricted then displaying the flag can be restricted as well. It is difficult to exclude either of them from Free Speech protection because after all, they always serve for a political purpose due to the flag nature as a symbol of the country. According to Tiersma, an act, in order to be considered as “speech” should qualify two criteria. First of all, the act needs to have meaning. Secondly, the actor must intend to convey a message through his act (Tiersma, 1557-1562). Burning the American qualifies the first criterion because it is a symbolic expression by definition. Yet, it does not qualify
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