Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Trump suggests loss of citizenship or jail for those who burn U.S. flags

President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened loss of citizenship or jail for those who burn the American flag, saying such protests - which the Supreme Court has declared to be free speech - should carry "consequences."

Trump offered his thoughts in an early morning post on Twitter, saying "nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag."

Flag burning was ruled to be constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment in a 1990 Supreme Court case, United States v. Eichman, that struck down a law seeking to prevent its desecration.

Trump did not say what inspired his proposal, but it comes just days after a college in western Massachusetts reportedly decided to stop flying all flags, including U.S. flags, after someone there burned a flag in protest of Trump's election victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

A group of veterans gathered on Sunday to protest the decision by Hampshire College in Amherst to remove the flag.

Trump's latest interest in curbing First Amendment protections follows several other actions related to free speech, including his blacklisting of reporters who fell out of favor with his campaign.

His tweet also demonstrated an ability that has continued beyond Trump's campaign to divert public attention from other issues of the day. Earlier this week, he caused an uproar by asserting on Twitter, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally for Clinton.

During a television appearance shortly after Trump's tweet, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) suggested Congress is unlikely to move on the issue of flag burning.

"We have a First Amendment right, but where I come from, you honor the flag," McCarthy said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "If someone wanted to show their First Amendment right, I'd be afraid for their safety, but we'll protect our First Amendment."

Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller defended his boss's position during an appearance on CNN.

"Flag burning should be illegal," he said repeatedly on the CNN's New Day.

Trump's tweet revives a debate that was settled in the courts more than 15 years ago.

In 1989, a closely divided Supreme Court struck down on First Amendment grounds a Texas statute banning flag-burning. Congress responded swiftly by passing the Flag Protection Act of 1989 - a law that invalidated by the Court's 1990 ruling.