Is Flag Burning Illegal?


In 1969, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to burn the flag. That ruling has held ever since. However, if a person decides to burn a flag without obtaining a permit, they can be found guilty for committing a misdemeanor.

Flag Burning History

In 1909, in the case of Halter versus Nebraska, the Supreme Court made the decision that desecrating the flag was illegal. During that time, many statutes prohibited desecration of the flag as well as disrespecting the flag in other ways.

During a 1968 protest that was being held in Central Park regarding the involvement of the United States military in Vietnam, an American flag was burned. The majority of the members in Congress were unhappy about this incident and passed the Federal Flag Desecration Law, which prohibited individuals from displaying any type of “contempt” against the flag.

This ruling made it illegal for any individual to burn a flag. Shortly after the ruling, the United States Supreme Court made the decision to recognize flagburning as a constitutional right based on the protection given to citizens by the First Amendment.

If a person decides to burn a flag to express their freedom of speech, and it does not create any type of hazard to the public, this type of expression is legal. It allows a person to show their great contempt to an organization by burning the symbolism that stands for.

Other Rulings Regarding Flag Burning

Since the decision in 1969 that pertained to the burning of the flag, other court cases have come into play that makes it legal to burn the flag in certain situations. One way that allows a person to burn the flag is when it becomes torn, old and worn out. In fact, employees of the federal government are required to handle flags in a specified way that is explained in the Flag Code.

However, if flags are made with nylons or plastics, they should not be burned as this type of material is known to emit noxious fumes when it is burned. Flags that are made out of this type of material should be disposed of in a reasonable manner that respects the symbolism of the flag.

Laws In Other Countries

In the United States, the importance of free speech is still a top value of society. This isn’t the case in other countries such as China, Croatia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and a few more. Many of these countries impose fines or imprisonment if a person is caught burning the flag that represents the country.