The survey found that one in three high schoolers think the First Amendment “goes too far”; that three quarters believe that flag-burning is illegal; and that 36% of them thought newspapers should get “government approval” before publishing stories in the newspaper.This is as good a time as any for me to harp on one of my pet issues -- the blatant disregard for sovereign judicial law in the state of Texas. You may remember reading about Texas v. Johnson, the 1989 Supreme Court case that defined flag burning as a kind of speech, subject to first amendment protection. This decision overturned Texas Penal Code §42.09, which read thus:
§42.09. Desecration of Venerated Object (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly desecrates: (1) a public monument; (2) a place of worship or burial; or (3) a state or national flag. (b) For purposes of this section, 'desecrate' means deface, damage, or otherwise physically mistreat in a way that the actor knows will seriously offend one or more persons likely to observe or discover his action. (c) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.The Court wrote:
The government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even where our flag is involved. Nor may a State foster its own view of the flag by prohibiting expressive conduct relating to it, since the government may not permit designated symbols to be used to communicate a limited set of messages.Good decision, if you believe in free expression, like I do. So what's Texas do? The very next legislative session, the Texas Legislature turned around and enacted PenC §42.11, practically on the same page as the law that was struck down:
42.11. Destruction of Flag (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly damages, defaces, mutilates, or burns the flag of the United States or the State of Texas. (b) In this section, "flag" means an emblem, banner, or other standard or a copy of an emblem, standard, or banner that is an official or commonly recognized depiction of the flag of the United States or of this state and is capable of being flown from a staff of any character or size. The term does not include a representation of a flag on a written or printed document, a periodical, stationery, a painting or photograph, or an article of clothing or jewelry. (c) It is an exception to the application of this section that the act that would otherwise constitute an offense is done in conformity with statutes of the United States or of this state relating to the proper disposal of damaged flags. (d) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.This is just as unconstitutional as the old §42.09, but it's been on the books ever since -- unchallenged, as far as I can tell. I don't know if it's ever enforced, but it's mere presense obviously stifles expression. (After all, 75% of American high school students don't know that flag-burning is protected speech.) This statute represents a blatant disregard for the rule of law. Texas should be ashamed of itself. The Legislature had its will overturned, so it turned around and thumbed its nose at the Supreme Court. The Texas government is holding itself above due process and Constitutional authority. If the Supreme Court can't protect Texans' rights, who can? Every time I go to Houston, which is pretty often, I seriously consider performing a flag-burning. I'd burn the Lone Star Texas flag, in protest of the unconstitutional Texas anti-flag-burning statute. One of these days I'll do it. Odds are good I wouldn't get arrested... but getting arrested could be fun too.