Erwin Chemerinsky, Law School Dean: Law is clear that flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment

December 12, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


In a December 7 op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily News, prominent legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky spoke out against Donald Trump’s threat to jail people who burn American flags in protest and strip them of their citizenship. Chemerinsky, who is dean of University of California, Irvine School of Law, wrote, in part:

“In cases in 1989 and 1990, the Supreme Court unequivocally held that there is a First Amendment right to burn a flag as a form of protest. Texas v. Johnson, in 1989, involved the conviction of an individual who burned a flag at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas and uttered the words, ‘Red, white and blue, we spit on you.’ He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison under a Texas law prohibiting any person to ‘deface, damage or otherwise physically mistreat’ a flag in a way he knows ‘will seriously offend one or more persons likely to observe or discover his action.’

The Supreme Court declared the Texas law unconstitutional. The court explained that the law’s purpose was to keep the flag from being used to communicate protest or dissent. The court said that ‘[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because it finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.’”

Read Erwin Chemerinsky’s op-ed here.


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