Burning a nation's flag: Hate Crime or Free Speech? A nation's flag is one of the most important things to a country. Citizens of a nation use it during special ceremonies, and a nation's flag is displayed all over that nation.
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For the purposes of this argument, a hate crime is defined as a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence (What Are Hate Crimes? ). I believe that burning a nation's flag is not a hate crime due to the fact that burning a nation's flag falls under a category that is protected by the First Amendment. In a hate crime, the targeted group could be categorized by not just race or sexuality, but religion and political beliefs or group as well. By burning a nation's flag, we could easily categorize it as targeting a political group.
When a person burns a nation's flag, he/she could be targeting the general people of that nation, the government of that nation, or to be even more specific, the leaders of that government. . In this case, we will say that the political group referred to is the government(to be more specific, the American government). Therefore, by burning a nation's flag, someone disagrees and takes a stand against a political activity or decision. In contrast to what a hate crime is, an act of free speech, protected by the First Amendment, is the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.
An act of free speech does not necessarily mean saying something out loud. It could also mean expressing your opinions about something by using actions. Since burning a nation's flag suggests taking a stand against a political activity, it is a way of expressing your opinion. Similar to free speech, freedom of expression which is part of the Human Rights Act says that you have the right to hold your own opinions and to express them freely without government interference (Equality and Human Rights Commission).
The government cannot arrest you or punish you for burning a nation's flag as long as no one gets physically hurt. Just like in almost every country around the world, America has its own Flag Code. The Flag Code is a guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes, but it does not impose penalties for misuse of the United States flag (US code 36). Each state has its own flag law, and penalty for misuse of the flag is up to the state. Criminal penalties for certain acts of vandalism of a flag were stated in Title 18 of the United States Code prior to 1989.
The Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson held the statute unconstitutional, though. In Texas v. Johnson, respondent Gregory Lee "Joey" Johnson was convicted of an act of disrespect of a venerated object, which violates a Texas statute. During the 1984 Republican National Convention, Johnson protested the policies of the Reagan administration and Dallas-based corporation. During the protest, Johnson burned the American flag. No one was physically hurt or injured, but some witnesses felt severely offended by this.
However, due to the First Amendment, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that the State could not punish Johnson for burning the flag in these circumstances. In addition, the Texas statute states that it is only illegal to burn a nation's flag when the act would result in a serious disturbance of peace. However, the flag burning in this case did not threaten such a reaction (Texas v. Johnson. ). It is true that showing your anger towards the government can be expressed in other ways besides burning the nation's flag.
One could protest, write a book, or write a blog to take a stand against a political action. However, no matter which of these actions you decide to do, you are still doing it to achieve the same goal: express your opinion and make a change in the government. Citation Page "Texas v. Johnson. " Cornell University Law School. 21 Mar. 1989. Online. 12 Feb. 2013. ;http://www. law. cornell. edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0491_0397_ZS. html;. "What Are Hate Crimes? " SikhNet. Online. 12 Feb. 2013. ;http://fateh. sikhnet. com/s/HateCrimeInfo;. "Article 485" New York Laws. Online. 12 Feb
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