A state lawmaker is working on legislation that would make burning the American flag illegal.
State Representative JJ Humphrey (R) Public Safety Committee Chair, said he wants to pass legislation outlawing the burning of the American Flag, unless it’s being done to retire the flag.
He’s also looking at legislation that would make flag burning inciting a riot or arson.
“Burning the flag is protected under the first amendment. So, you got to get creative on what we can do. So again, I’ve looked at is it arson when you are burning something out on the street? I think that it is.” Humphrey said.
“You can’t back door your way into a constitutional piece of legislation by saying it’s for one thing whenever the effect is another. The effect here would be to ban/prohibit the burning of the flag in a way that is consistent with the first amendment,” said Ryan Kiesel of the ACLU Of Oklahoma. “Congress tried to do something like this around 30 years ago when they created a requirement the desecration of the flag was only limited to the disposal of the flag, but even then the United States Supreme Court said no, the effect would be to limit protected constitutional speech.”
The ACLU says if the legislation passes, the state is in for a legal fight.
“For a state government, a city government, any government to outlaw the burning of a flag has been settled for over 30 years in the United States of America. The Supreme Court has clearly held that it’s protected speech,” said Kiesel.
Humphrey said he’s ready for the fight.
“Hey, when you burn the flag in front of a bunch of patriotic Oklahomans, can I get a witness? You’re going to cause some division.”