1968 July 5

Congress Passes Flag Protection Act


In response to anti-Vietnam War protests, which included some incidents of burning the American flag, the Flag Protection Act passed by Congress became effective on this day. The law was amended and strengthened in 1989 in response to the Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson, on June 21, 1989, which struck down a Texas flag-desecration law. The Supreme Court then struck down the amended federal law, in United States v. Eichman, on June 11, 1990. Following the two Supreme Court decisions, there was a strong movement in Congress for a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag desecration, but it never received the necessary votes.

The Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Read: Robert Justin Goldstein, Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson (2000)

And learn more about the flag burning cases: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/flagburning.htm

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