• Photo of burning American flag censored in school paper

    Date: 06.14.08 | by Judge Tom.

    Senior Connor Kennedy wrote the following editorial about free speech in the Shasta High School newspaper, The Volcano. His words accompanied by a photo of a burning American flag have caused a stir across the country.  In the case of Texas v. Johnson (1989)  the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such an act is protected speech under the First Amendment although upsetting and offensive to many.

    Staff Editorial: Because we can 

    by Connor Kennedy

    “ Those who would assume that the act of burning the flag is unpatriotic, could not be more mistaken. It may offend some and mortify others, or perhaps even provoke a genuinely violent response, but the reality is that it is protected speech, and to burn the flag is the penultimate embodiment of the tolerance America has towards the principle of free speech.

    I do not agree with everything this country does, and I do not agree with everything that it stands for, but I do believe that the right to free expression which exists virtually nowhere in the world as it does in America is one of the most essential rights a citizen can possess.

    I must now address the veterans or actively serving members of the military who may be utterly mortified or disgusted by what they have seen and assure them that it is precisely what they have or are currently defending. The day an American cannot burn the flag, the day he cannot denounce his country, is the day America is no longer free. It is simply beautiful that we have this right, and it is what has allowed us to create the unique, diverse, and spirited culture that we so proudly boast. God Bless America and its burning flags too.”

    What do you think of Connor’s view of free speech?  Are there or should there be limits to this cherished freedom? Is burning the American flag going too far in expressing a point of view? Share your thoughts with others and let us know what you think.

    Know your rights concerning school censorship.

    Although free speech is a protected right, there are responsibilities that accompany this freedom. In other words, the speech may be legal but at the same time ethically or morally wrong. Consider the case of a small church in Florida. In March, 2011, the Dove World Outreach Center conducted a mock trial and burned a copy of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. This act of extreme intolerance and bigotry sparked violent protests in Afghanistan, a Muslim country. 20 people were killed during the demonstrations against the West and dozens injured. Is this making responsible use of our freedom of speech?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • Demosthenes
      Mon, 17 Nov 2008 at 03:56

      I agree 100% with Conner. If as American citizens, we are truly free then do we not have the right to denounce our own country, the right to burn any flag for just the reason “because I feel like it?” What is uglier than Chuckie or Freddy or even Frankestein? The truth, and sometime we may not like to hear it, but it is what it is. Can a bonded man run? If we cripple our rights then who is to say that the next offended Joe-Blo wont break its legs off. There is a flag of one nation and one nation of millions of people. People from burning deserts to icy mountains and green grasslands have forefathers who fought, died, and wept for this nation as we struggled 8 Years 200,000 other men to declare “FREEDOM!” Freedom for them, for their sons and duaghters, for their grandchildren, great grandchildren, and for you and for me. For that we must always be grateful and not for single moment take for granted the gift that belongs to one nation of many ethnicities. Let us fight with all the vigor we can muster so as to remind each other how precious freedom is.

      Judge Tom’s response:
      Thanks for your thoughts and comments on this all-important issue.