Early this morning, Trump tweeted that burning the American flag should have some major consequences, such as jail time or even loss of citizenship.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
The right to burn the flag - although highly offensive and disrespectful to our country, what it stands for, and those who fought to protect it - has been affirmed by the Supreme Court twice. In 1989, flag burning was labeled "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment in Texas v. Johnson.
The court’s reasoning: “The way to preserve the flag’s special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong.”
“We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents,” the justices concluded.
In response to the Johnson case, Congress passed the 1989 Flag Protection Act. The following year, the Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional in United States v. Eichman, reaffirming one’s right to desecrate an American flag.
Despite saying he is a constitutionalist, Trump has challenged some rights that fall under the First Amendment. He has threatened to lessen the press’ protections and “open up” libel laws throughout his campaign.