Trump: Flag burners should be jailed or lose citizenship

Constitutional amendment would be required to make flag burning a crime

In this July 20, 2016 file photo, a law enforcement officer tries to extinguish a burning American flag during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. President-elect Donald Trump says people who burn the American flag should be punished, mentioning a jail sentence or losing citizenship. Burning the American flag is protected speech according to the First Amendment and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1989. (AP file)
In this July 20, 2016 file photo, a law enforcement officer tries to extinguish a burning American flag during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. President-elect Donald Trump says people who burn the American flag should be punished, mentioning a jail sentence or losing citizenship. Burning the American flag is protected speech according to the First Amendment and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1989. (AP file)

NEW YORK (WWLP) – President-elect Donald Trump says that people who burn the American flag should be prosecuted, or even lose their citizenship. The president-elect tweeted about the subject Tuesday morning, suggesting jail time could also be appropriate for flag burners.

Burning of the American flag was ruled a form of protected speech in the Supreme Court’s 1989 ruling in Texas v. Johnson, and further upheld the following year in United States v. Eichman. Without an amendment to the Constitution to ban it, flag burning cannot be prosecuted as a crime in and of itself. A flag burner may, however, be charged with theft or vandalism if the flag that he or she burns is stolen.

A local incident of flag desecration recently received national attention. Hampshire College in Amherst has taken down the American flag on its main flagpole, after students lowered it to half-staff following Trump’s victory in the presidential election. At some point early in the morning on Veterans Day, the flag was burned. The college has decided to keep the flag down while there is a campus-wide discussion over the flag and its role.

To protest Hampshire’s decision, a group of about 1,000 veterans and others gathered outside the campus on Sunday, carrying flags.

Continuing Coverage: Hampshire College flag controversy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday that anyone who burns an American flag should face unspecified “consequences,” such as jail or a loss of citizenship — a move that was ruled out by the Supreme Court nearly three decades ago.

Trump took to Twitter early Tuesday morning, stating, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

It was not immediately clear what prompted the tweet.

The president-elect’s tweet is a direct conflict with free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. It came as he prepared to name a secretary of state and transportation secretary.

“We have a responsibility as a country” to carefully protect the rights enshrined in the Constitution, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag-burning is “expressive conduct” protected by the First Amendment.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that he does not “support or believe in the idea of people burning the American flag. I support the First Amendment.” He added that Congress has no plans to take action against flag burning.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., took issue with the tweet. “We want to protect those people who want to protest….I disagree with Mr. Trump on that,” Duffy said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day”.

Duffy is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s panel on oversight and investigations.

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