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.
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.