In the case of Texas vs. Johnson, the court maintains its adamant position to rule in favor of individuals and strike down the statutes for being inconsistent with the first amendment clause. In brief, Johnson, the defendant-appellant, was convicted for desecrating a venerated object under a Texas law when he burned the American flag as a sign of protest against Reagan’s administration (Texas v. Johnson 491 U. S. 397). He was convicted at the first instance of court, appealed at the higher courts and soon enough carried the case all the way up to the Supreme Court where the majority decided in his favor.
The court ruled that Johnson’s conviction under the Texas statute is inconsistent with the tenor of the first amendment clause. At the fore, the act of Johnson of burning the flag fell under the category of symbolic speech and conduct which is clearly within the ambit of constitutional protection. On the other hand, Texas’ contention is that the conduct of Johnson had a dangerous tendency to disturb public peace and order, and will offend certain people in the community—a legitimate state interest that supersedes an individual’s right.
The court argued that the government should not be quick to presuppose that a conduct or provocative idea will incite a riot. There must be a careful appreciation and “consideration of the actual circumstances surrounding such expression” (United States v. O’Brien 391 U. S. 367), as to whether or not “directed to inciting commission of imminent lawless action and would likely produce the same” (id. ). Texas did not show clear and convincing evidence of a riot as a result of Johnson’s burning the flag.
Absent such evidence and without tracing the conduit between the allegedly criminal act and the disturbance of the peace, the individual can not be penalized, much less censured. At any rate, however, Johnson’s action of burning the flag is protected speech and protected conduct. Free-flow of speech, expression and information is the highlight of a democratic state. There must be minimal if not, nil provisions that would compromise the right to freedom of expression. No law, whatever form or justification, must be passed to abridge the highway of thoughts among social animals.
If anything can be learned from case, is that criticism is permitted to penetrate even to the foundations of Government. Criticism, no matter how severe, is within the range of liberty of speech unless the intention and effect be harmful: the very mark of democracy. Lastly, it is important to note as well that with any provocative speech, like the one expressed by Johnson, the answer to it is more speech; to stir things up a bit to ferret out the truth and establish personal opinions.
More speech is good in a democracy; in fact, it is one that is highly encouraged above and beyond anything else. Works Cited Bouvier, John. Bouvier Law Dictionary, 6th ed. Vernan Law Book Company, 1914. Supreme Justia: Supreme Court Center. United States v. O’Brien, 391 U. S. 367. (1968). The U. S. Supreme Court. Accessed on 9 February 2008. <http://supreme. justia. com/us/391/367/case. html>. Supreme Justia: Supreme Court Center. Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397 (1989). The U. S. Supreme Court. Accessed on 9 February 2008. <http://supreme. justia. com/us/491/397/case. html>.