On This Date in Legal History

In 1984, protesters gathered in Dallas, Texas, to voice objections to policies adopted by the Reagan administration. During the demonstration, Gregory Lee Johnson doused an American flag with kerosene, and set it on fire. He was arrested for violating a Texas statute that made it a criminal offense to desecrate the flag.  Johnson was convicted, sentenced to one year in jail, and fined $2,000. That decision was appealed up to the Supreme Court.

Attorney William Kunstler with defendant, Gregory Lee Johnson, in 1989, after giving a talk about Texas v. Johnson at Bronx High School of Science. Source: Scan of a photo taken byJoel Seidenstein in 1989

Attorney William Kunstler with Gregory Lee Johnson in 1989, after speaking about Texas v. Johnson at a New York high school. This is a scanned image of a photo taken by Joel Seidenstein.

On June 21, 1989, the United States Supreme Court held (in a 5-4 decision) that Johnson’s conviction violated the First Amendment. Justice Brennan, who authored the majority opinion for the Court, explained—“We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.” Listen to each side of the debate at http://goo.gl/xURQpf.

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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