Facts: The defendant, Gregory Lee Johnson was convicted of desecrating a flag in violation of Texas Law. A conviction in which he challenged stating that it was a violation of his 1st amendment of freedom of speech. The state's court of appeals rejected that it was a violation of Johnson's freedom of speech and affirmed that it was a violation of the state's law for burning the flag. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a certiorari.
Issue: Is flag burning as a form of political protest an agreeable method of practicing ones First amendment right to freedom of the speech? Or an attempt to cause societal disorder or disrupt the peace with violent outbreaks, either verbal or physical from members of Johnson's protest, or other citizens who may be offended a the burning of the flag.
Decision: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction, stating that Johnson's burning of the flag was expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. .
Reason for Decision: The court concluded that the state could not criminally convict anyone of flag desecration in order to preserve the American flag as a symbol of national unity and pride. It is also stated that the statute did not meet the state's goal of preventing breaches of the peace, since it was not explained narrowly enough to include only those flag burning that would likely result in a serious disturbance. The court also concluded that since the flag burning in this case did not threaten such a reaction. It stated that there is another Texas statute prohibited breaches of the peace and could be used to prevent disturbances without punishing the flag burning as a crime. .
Rule of Law: The Court held that state officials did not have the authority to designate symbols to be used to communicate only limited sets of messages. The 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.