Early this morning, Donald Trump began idly musing – entirely unprompted – about the American right to burn the flag as an expression of political speech. Most likely ignorant of the fact that the Supreme Court has upheld this right not once but twice, Trump decided that jail or stripping citizenship was an appropriate response to flag-burning protesters.
An obvious attack on the First Amendment and the American people’s right to protest, the American Civil Liberties Union had an important lesson to teach the tiny-tentacled tyrant.
Our democracy is strong because we tolerate all peaceful forms of expression, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel or how much we disagree. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed that the right to desecrate the flag is included in the Constitution’s protection of speech.
Flag burning and desecration is offensive precisely because it is political. Experience shows that the way to fight political expression with which one disagrees is not to outlaw it, as Congress has repeatedly sought to do, but to express disapproval.
The ACLU has led organizing efforts against legislative attempts to ban flag desecration, including fighting back recently proposed constitutional amendments in 2004, 2006, and 2011. We worked with veteran groups, religious leaders, and other Americans to highlight opposition to the amendment and lobby senators to vote down the proposals. We will continue to react quickly and forcefully to any future attempts to restrict the protections of the First Amendment.
It is absolutely terrifying to see the President-elect idly musing about how he’s going to unravel the Constitution he hasn’t even sworn to protect and uphold yet. The ACLU issued a warning to Trump on the day after his election – that if he tries to infringe the rights of American citizens, they’ll “see him in court.” That may come quicker than anyone could have imagined.
UPDATE: We now know why Trump was tweeting about flag-burning now…
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) November 29, 2016