On This Date in Legal History

Gregory Lee Johnson was arrested for burning an American flag as a means of protesting President Reagan’s policies. He timed his demonstration to coincide with the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. The delegates were meeting to renominate Reagan for president. He was convicted of violating a Texas law that made it a crime to desecrate a state or national flag, and was fined $2,000, and sentenced to a year in the county jail. Johnson appealed his conviction up to the United States Supreme Court. On March 21, 1989, the case of Texas v. Johnson was argued before the Court, and on June 21, 1989, the Court held in Johnson’s favor. Justice Brennan explained, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

William_Kunstler_and_Gregory_Lee_Johnson

Attorney William Kunstler, on the left, is photographed here with defendant Gregory Lee Johnson, on the right. Source: Joel Seidenstein

I recommend listening to the oral argument in this case at http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_88_155. Several of Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments draw laughter.

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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