The New Yorker has posted a profile of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. It is a bit lengthy and I confess I did not read the whole thing even though I found it interesting.
A little more than halfway through, there are a couple of paragraphs on the 1989 flag burning case. Stevens “dissented from the decision that protected the right to burn the American flag as a form of protest.”
I remember that controversy. I know I told a few people that it did not make any sense. If someone did not want the flag to be burned, then the best thing to do would be to make it legal to burn the flag. Making flag burning against the law would assure that there would be more flag burnings.
The court said flag burning was protected speech and could not be criminalized. The result:
“The funny thing about that case is, the only consequence of it — nobody burns flags anymore,” Stevens told me. “It was an important symbolic form of protest at the time. But nobody does it anymore. As long as it’s legal, it’s not a big deal. You just don’t have flag burning.”