Texas v. Johnson | Study Guide

United States Supreme Court

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Course Hero. "Texas v. Johnson Study Guide." December 21, 2018. Accessed January 22, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Texas-v-Johnson/.

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Course Hero, "Texas v. Johnson Study Guide," December 21, 2018, accessed January 22, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Texas-v-Johnson/.

Overview

Author

United States Supreme Court

Year Decided

1989

Type

Primary Source

Genre

U.S. Supreme Court Case

At a Glance

  • In 1984 Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag during a protest at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. Flag desecration was then a crime under Texas law.
  • Johnson was arrested and convicted of "desecration of a venerated object," receiving a fine and a one-year prison sentence. He appealed his conviction, which was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).
  • Reviewing the case, the Supreme Court upheld the CCA's decision. The high court ruled, as had the CCA, that laws criminalizing the desecration of the U.S. flag violated the 1st Amendment right to free speech.
  • Justice William Joseph Brennan Jr., writing for the majority, emphasized the limited set of reasons that could justify the restriction of "expressive conduct" such as flag burning. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, dissenting, argued that the special symbolic nature of the flag merited an exception.
  • Texas v. Johnson was a controversial decision, sparking considerable backlash among both citizens and legislators. Although the ruling invalidated laws across the country banning flag desecration, Congress made a few more attempts to ban the practice. None succeeded.
  • To this day rules governing the use of the U.S. flag remain a part of federal law. These rules, however, are advisory in nature, with no penalty for noncompliance.

Summary

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