Even though the Supreme Court has ruled flag-burning is constitutionally-protected free speech
President-elect Donald Trump has suggested in a tweet that people who burn the American flag, an act protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, should suffer “consequences” such as a year in jail or being stripped of their U.S. citizenship.
Trump’s latest tweet follows reports of heated, flag-related protests in Massachusetts after Jonathan Lash, the president of Hampshire College, said the institution would remove all flags from campus after students allegedly burned a U.S. flag on Veterans Day in protest of Trump’s electoral victory.
Lash’s decision triggered strong reactions including from 1,000 veterans who gathered at the college on Sunday in protest, the Washington Post reports.
However, despite Trump’s statement that flag burners must suffer consequences, the Supreme Court ruled on June 11, 1990 that laws against desecrating the flag are unconstitutional and that burning the flag is an example of constitutionally-protected free speech. “The flag is so revered because it represents the land of the free, and that freedom includes the ability to use or abuse that flag in protest,” TIME reported last year.
Unlike Trump, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, believes flag burners should still remain protected by the First Amendment. In a column published in 2006, the year he cast a deciding vote against banning flag burning, he wrote that despite not “shar[ing] the slightest shred of sympathy with any who would dare desecrate the flag… No act of speech is so obnoxious that it merits tampering with our First Amendment.”