On June 11, 1990 the United States Supreme Court invalidated a federal law prohibiting the desecration of the American flag, according to Oyez.org.
In 1989 Congress passed the Flag Protection Act making it a criminal offense to destroy an American flag or any likeness of an American flag which may be "commonly displayed." Yet, the law permitted for proper disposal of a worn flag.
In the case, United States v. Eichman, Eichman was prosecuted under the Flag Protection Act for burning a flag on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in protest of the government's domestic and foreign policy.
A similar prosecution took place in Seattle in United States v. Haggerty. In that case Haggerty was prosecuted for setting the flag ablaze in protest of the passage of the Flag Protection Act. The two cases were argued together.
Justice Brennan wrote for the majority in a 5-4 decision, relying on the Court's holding in the Texas v. Johnson from 1989, noting that the act infringed on the First Amendment right of freedom of expression.
Brennan stated that the Act's "asserted interest is related to the suppression of free expression and concerned with the content of such expression."
Because the action at issue satisfied the two-pronged Texas v. Johnson test (see above), Brennan determined that it was expressive conduct and was thus subject to constitutional scrutiny.
He noted that the FPA was unconstitutional because on one hand it allowed the flag to be burned in a disposal ceremony, but on the other hand it prevented protesters from burning the flag in a political protest.
Essentially, the acts demise was due to the fact that it impermissibly sought to prevent persons from exercising their constitutionally protected right to express themselves politically.
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