regard with feelings of respect and reverence
The only criminal offense with which he was charged was the desecration of a
venerated object in violation of Tex.Penal Code Ann. § 42.09(a)(3) (1989).
a legally binding command or decision
...a government cannot mandate by
fiat a feeling of unity in its citizens.
propose or intend
Therefore, that very same government cannot carve out a symbol of unity and prescribe a set of approved messages to be associated with that symbol when it cannot mandate the status or feeling the symbol
purports to represent.
forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority
If his conduct was expressive, we next decide whether the State's regulation is related to the
suppression of free expression.
spread or diffuse through
...we have acknowledged that conduct may be "sufficiently
imbued with elements of communication to fall within the scope of the First and Fourteenth Amendments," Spence, supra, at 409.
serve as a means for expressing something
In deciding whether particular conduct possesses sufficient communicative elements to bring the First Amendment into play, we have asked whether an intent to
convey a particularized message was present, and whether the likelihood was great that the message would be understood by those who viewed it.
characterized by communicating beliefs or opinions
Hence, we have recognized the
expressive nature of students' wearing of black armbands to protest American military involvement in Vietnam, Tinker v. Des Moines; of a sit-in by blacks in a "whites only" area to protest segregation, Brown v. Louisiana; of the wearing of American military uniforms in a dramatic presentation criticizing American involvement in Vietnam, Schacht v. United States; and of picketing about a wide variety of causes
able or tending to transmit a message
Especially pertinent to this case are our decisions recognizing the
communicative nature of conduct relating to flags.
an appearance in bodily form
The very purpose of a national flag is to serve as a symbol of our country; it is, one might say, "the one visible
manifestation of two hundred years of nationhood."
the practice of investing things with arbitrary meaning
Symbolism is a primitive but effective way of communicating ideas. The use of an emblem or flag to symbolize some system, idea, institution, or personality, is a shortcut from mind to mind.
an attack that penetrates into enemy territory
In Spence, for example, we emphasized that Spence's taping of a peace sign to his flag was "roughly simultaneous with and concededly triggered by the Cambodian
incursion and the Kent State tragedy."
the act of yielding
The State of Washington had conceded, in fact, that Spence's conduct was a form of communication, and we stated that "the State's
concession is inevitable on this record."
open and observable; not secret or hidden
overtly political nature of this conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent.
It may not, however,
proscribe particular conduct because it has expressive elements.
the way a person behaves toward other people
Thus, although we have recognized that, where "speech" and "nonspeech" elements are combined in the same course of
conduct, a sufficiently important governmental interest in regulating the nonspeech element can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms
consent to, give permission
Our precedents do not
countenance such a presumption.
a disagreement or argument about something important
On the contrary, they recognize that a principal function of free speech under our system of government is to invite
dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.
provoke or stir up
Thus, we have not permitted the government to assume that every expression of a provocative idea will
incite a riot, but have instead required careful consideration of the actual circumstances surrounding such expression, asking whether the expression "is directed to
inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to
incite or produce such action."
a failure to perform some promised act or obligation
And, in fact, Texas already has a statute specifically prohibiting
breaches of the peace, which tends to confirm that Texas need not punish this flag desecration in order to keep the peace.
If he had burned the flag as a means of disposing of it because it was dirty or torn, he would not have been convicted of flag
desecration under this Texas law: federal law designates burning as the preferred means of disposing of a flag "when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display," and Texas has no quarrel with this means of disposal.
an undivided or unbroken completeness with nothing wanting
The Texas law is thus not aimed at protecting the physical
integrity of the flag in all circumstances, but is designed instead to protect it only against impairments that would cause serious offense to others.
hate coupled with disgust
...the display of any sign within 500 feet of a foreign embassy if that sign tends to bring that foreign government into "public
odium" or "public disrepute."
an undivided or unbroken completeness with nothing wanting
According to Texas, if one physically treats the flag in a way that would tend to cast doubt on either the idea that nationhood and national
unity are the flag's referents or that national
unity actually exists, the message conveyed thereby is a harmful one, and therefore may be prohibited.
a basic truth or law or assumption
If there is a bedrock
principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
very opposed in nature or character or purpose
...the constitutionally guaranteed "freedom to be intellectually...diverse or even
contrary," and the "right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order," encompass the freedom to express publicly one's opinions about our flag, including those opinions which are defiant or contemptuous.
give expression to
Nor may the government, we have held, compel conduct that would
evince respect for the flag.
a stipulated condition
proviso, we held, which leaves Americans free to praise the war in Vietnam but can send persons like Schacht to prison for opposing it, cannot survive in a country which has the First Amendment.
capable of being justified or protected
To conclude that the government may permit designated symbols to be used to communicate only a limited set of messages would be to enter territory having no discernible or
take exception to
It cannot be
gainsaid that there is a special place reserved for the flag in this Nation, and thus we do not doubt that the government has a legitimate interest in making efforts to "preserv[e] the national flag as an unalloyed symbol of our country."
an occurrence of rebounding or springing back
Indeed, one of the proudest images of our flag, the one immortalized in our own national anthem, is of the bombardment it survived at Fort McHenry. It is the Nation's
resilience, not its rigidity, that Texas sees reflected in the flag—and it is that
resilience that we reassert today.
anticipate with dread or anxiety
To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil
apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion.
close in time; about to occur
To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so
imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion.
the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect
We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own, no better way to counter a flag burner's message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the
dignity even of the flag that burned than by—as one witness here did—according its remains a respectful burial.
render holy by means of religious rites
We do not
consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.
a visible symbol representing an abstract idea
We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished