Flag desecration is a term applied to the desecration of flags or flag protocol, a various set of acts that intentionally destroy, damage or mutilate a flag in public. Often, in case of a national flag, such action is intended to make a political point against a country or its policies. Some countries have laws forbidding methods of destruction (such as burning in public) or forbidding particular uses (such as for commercial purposes); such laws may distinguish between desecration of the country's own national flag and flags of other countries.
- I hope, Mr. President, that we can pass a law that criminalizes flag burning and desecration.
- Without the right to burn the flag, without that freedom of expression, the flag is just a piece of cloth. It means nothing. With that freedom, with our Bill of Rights, it's the greatest symbol on earth. It's magic.
- If we set the precedent of limiting the First Amendment, in order to protect the sensibilities of those who are offended by flag burning, what will we say the next time someone is offended by some other minority view, or by some other person's exercise of the freedom the Constitution is supposed to protect?
- Ted Kennedy, Constituent letter (1997).
- I have consistently opposed a flag-burning amendment, and voted against its passage. Flag desecration is hateful and worthy of condemnation, and I would support any statory means possible to curtail desecration of the flag. But I believe that the importance of the Bill of Rights -- our nations founding document -- requires us to establish a very high threshold for agreeing to change it. Does the amendment address some extreme threat to our country, or redress some outrageous wrong? In this case, abhorrent though flag desecration may be, it simply does not meet that test.
- Joe Lieberman, Associated Press policy Q&A, "Flag Amendment" (January 25, 2004).
- I have never seen anyone burn a flag. And if I did, it would take every ounce of restraint I had not to haul off and hit them.
- Barack Obama, as quoted in "The Constitution, Designed to Change, Rarely Does" (4 December 2008), by Jennifer S. Forsyth, The Wall Street Journal.
- Values in a free society are accepted voluntarily, not through coercion, and certainly not by law... every time we write a law to control private behavior, we imply that somebody has to arrive with a gun, because if you desecrate the flag, you have to punish that person. So how do you do that? You send an agent of the government, perhaps an employee of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Flags, to arrest him. This is in many ways patriotism with a gun – if your actions do not fit the official definition of a "patriot," we will send somebody to arrest you.
- If I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged. And it is addressed, in particular, to speech critical of the government.
- Antonin Scalia, New York Times (July 19, 2012).
- What is this thing anyway? Nothing but a piece of cotton with a little paint on it, and some other marks in the corner there. I will not kiss that thing. It might be covered with microbes.
- Earnest V. Starr, remarks in response to mob demands to kiss the United States Flag (24 March 1918), as quoted in his profile page at the Montana Sedition Project, and "American Flag Timeline: Flag Desecration, Flag Burning, Pledge of Allegiance" at About.com. On 27 September 1918, he was tried for sedition, and convicted in a jury trial on the grounds that the above statement constituted "contemptuous and slurring language about the flag and language calculated to bring the flag into contempt and disrepute", sentenced to 10–20 years of hard labour in a state penitentiary, and fined $500 plus court costs. His habeas corpus petitions were denied by both the Montana Supreme Court and a U. S. District Court. His sentence was commuted by Governor Joseph M. Dixon on 4 June 1921 to 5–20 years making him immediately eligible for parole. He served thirty-five months of his sentence and was released on 18 September 1921. No member of the mob that harassed him were ever punished for their unlawful or disorderly conduct.
- 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 Trump, reported in Brett McGinness, "For the Record: Trump's flag-burning tweet starts flame war", USA Today (November 30, 2016).