Donald Trump, in a Tuesday morning tweet, said those who burn American flags should face a year in jail or the loss of citizenship.
His exact message: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
No. No, no, no and no.
Burning the flag, while a disgusting act that ought to be scorned and protested by those on the side of sanity in America, is nonetheless protected First Amendment speech. It’s a political act – a clear constitutional right the government has no authority to infringe.
And while the biggest argument against burning the American flag is that is disrespects those who served and fought in our U.S. military, the opposite actually holds true.
Like it or not, flag burning is part and parcel of what U.S. military members fight to preserve.
And it’s underscored by the 1989 Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson that saw then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist argue that any attempt to criminalize the burning or destruction of an American flag is a clear violation of First Amendment rights to the individual.
My view: I’m a veteran. My husband is a veteran. At least two of our children have or are considering service in the U.S. military. But I’d rather not see our government crack down on political dissenters, ugly as that dissent may be. I’d much rather let those who hate America exercise their First Amendment rights and in so doing, preserve our country’s precious freedoms for the long-term, than shut down discourse for self-righteous reasons. Banning falg-burning, after all, wouldn’t change hearts. Wouldn’t it be better to out those who want to burn flags, bring them out of the shadows, and in so doing, confront them?
Trump’s wrong on this. Hope his tweeted message was simply a kneejerk reaction, not announcement of coming legislation, and dies a quick death.