President-elect Donald Trump is a very proud American citizen who, like many people, are outraged when we see the American flag burned, stepped on and disrespected.
Many of us associate the flag with our military and soldiers who died in combat whose coffins come home wrapped in the American flag, or see it as a symbol of unity and strength that represents us as a nation.
Trump took to Twitter and suggested that burning the American flag – which is currently protected under the First Amendment – should be punished either by a year in jail or 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
Trump came under heavy criticism Tuesday after calling for the criminalization of burning the American flag, with critics gasping that the president-elect’s words represent a threat to the First Amendment. However, Trump’s suggestions are similar to a bill pushed in the Senate in 2005 that would criminalize flag burning – a bill that was co-sponsored by then-Sen. Hillary Clinton Fox News reports.
Multiple Supreme Court decisions have found flag burning to be protected under the First Amendment. In 1989 the court struck down a Texas law criminalizing flag burning in a 5-to-4 decision, with even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia arguing the practice was protected under the First Amendment.
However, despite the Supreme Court’s pronouncements on the issue, seeking to criminalize flag burning has been a regular occurrence in American politics, and was pushed in 2005 by then-Sen. Clinton.
In 2005, Clinton co-sponsored the Flag Protection Act which, while it did not call for the stripping of citizenship, made flag burning with the intent to incite violence or disturb the peace punishable by a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by Clinton and then-Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, never made it out of the Judiciary Committee, but was floated as a compromise to a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban flag burning.
Clinton was criticized for her stance then, although the criticisms leveled at her targeted Clinton’s perceived political slipperiness, rather than her representing a threat to constitutional liberty. A New York Times piece accused the senator of being “in pander mode.”
“It’s hard to see this as anything but pandering — there certainly isn’t any urgent need to resolve the issue. Flag-burning hasn’t been in fashion since college students used slide rules in math class and went to pay phones at the student union to call their friends,” the paper claimed.