Texas vs. Johnson
external image AMERICAN%20LEGION%20FLAG%20BURNING%20FLAGS%20IN%20FLAME%20(OP%202)%20JUNE%2014,%202005%20040.jpg


By Lawren Koffa & Celeste Clark

Background of this case
Argued March 21, 1989 decided on June 21, 1989; the event took place at the Republican National Convention in Texas between the state and Gregory Lee Johnson.
Gregory Lee Johnson publicly burned an American flag as a political protest during the Reagan administration. He was then convicted of desecrating the flag in Violation of the Texas laws. When the court of criminal appeals reversed his conviction and told the petitioner that he was protected under the First Amendment. This case presents the question whether his conviction is consistent with the First Amendment.

Constitutional significance of this case
The court decided that Johnson had the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression and the desire to express ideas in the midst of political interests stated by the First Amendment. Johnson was protected by the first amendment which gave him the freedom to express his ideas freely. This case was significant because it sparked the debate over the flag and its meaning. It also brought up the issue of whether or not there should be something in the flag about the prohibiting of physical desecration to the flag.
Decision/precedent set by this case
The case decision stated in the court was that Johnson was not protected by the first amendment, and was charged with violating the Texas law of vandalizing respected objects. The conviction resulted in a $2,000 fine and a year of prison for Johnson. There was an appeal made by Johnson to the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas, but it resulted in a loss of the appeal. Then the court of criminal appeals saw his case and overturned his conviction. The Supreme Court confirmed the court of criminal appeals decision in the case of Johnson conviction saying that the claim wasn’t supported because the desecration of the flag didn’t threaten or disturb the peace of any citizen’s. The decision basically stated that the petitioners (Texas) interest in preserving the flag as a symbol didn’t justify the conviction of Johnson for interacting in political expression. The only reason why the petitioners (Texas) had for the Supreme Court case was because they felt it violated their laws because people had taken offence to Johnson’s actions. Because of the case South Carolina allowed flag burning as freedom of expression speech as part of citizen’s rights. It further shaped the definition of citizen’s freedom of speech and the way it was and changed the interpretation of laws.
Important terms/concepts related to this case
Desecration: The act of depriving something of its sacred character.