American Flag Stands for Tolerance (Newspaper Editorial by Ronald J. Allen)
The similarities and differences between "Texas Vs. Johnson" and The American "Flag Stands For Tolerance" are striking, and they deserve merit. One major similarity is that both articles agree that the burning of the American flag can and should not be punishable by law. An equally important similarity is that both articles agree that the American flag stands for many values in America. However, there are also notable differences in the "Texas Vs. Johnson" case and the article, "The American Flag Stands for Tolerance". In the supreme court case against Johnson, the writer says, "The government has an interest in the proper treatment of the flag".
In a controversial decision, the Supreme Court, by the closest possible margin of a 5-to-4 vote, held that a person has a right to express disagreement with governmental policies by burning the American flag. In a decision at least as controversial, the leadership of the People`s Republic of China decided that citizens who peacefully express disagreement with government policies may be slaughtered. On the surface, these two events may seem to bear little relationship to one another, but deep and fundamental lessons can be drawn from their comparison. The American flag is a cherished symbol of our national aspirations. It is the closest object to a national icon, rivaled only by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Given the widespread and deeply felt reverence for this symbol of what we perceive to be the best of our civilization, what is the harm in insisting upon a modicum of respect for it? After all, no one can seriously equate a prohibition on flag burning with the imposition of governmental orthodoxy in political speech. Any messages that burning the flag might convey easily can be communicated in other ways. Those are powerful points, deserving the greatest respect. If not rebutted, they compel the conclusion that the Supreme Court was wrong in its decision. The Supreme Court was not wrong. Indeed, a decision contrary to the one reached would have been a definitive step away from our national aspirations. A commitment to the intertwined freedoms of conscience and expression is at the core of those aspirations. What most distinguishes our civilization from both its predecessors and its contemporary competitors is a belief in the sanctity of the human conscience. Each individual is to have the freedom to develop by his or her own lights, and not by the command of officialdom. That requires not just the right to be let alone, but also the right to communicate with, to learn from and test views in conversations.
On the whole, Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas. Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others. A Texas court tried and convicted Johnson. He appealed, arguing that his actions were "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case.