The American Flag Outside Of The Convention Center Essay

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FACTS: After publicly burning the American flag outside of the convention center in Dallas, Texas, where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held, Gregory Lee Johnson, the defendant, was convicted of desecrating a flag in violation of Texas law. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was sentenced to one year in prison and was given a $2,000 fine. A Texas court tried and convicted Johnson but he then appealed, arguing that burning the American flag was "symbolic speech" and was protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case. ISSUE: Does convicting a citizen for burning the American flag violate the "symbolic speech" clause protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? REASONING: Brennan: The First Amendment of the Unites States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The act for which the appellant was convicted was clearly "speech" contemplated by the First Amendment. Recognizing that the right to differ is the centerpiece of our First Amendment freedoms , a government cannot mandate a feeling of unity in its citizens. Therefore, the government also cannot carve out a symbol of unity and prescribe a set of approved messages to be associated with that symbol when it cannot mandate the status or feeling the symbol purports to represent. In the case of Spence v. Washington in 1974, it was ruled that it was a violation of the First
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