“Decisions We Do Not Like”: Flag Desecration Case Law and the Culture War

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Jack Granahan


The years following the Reagan Administration were defined by a newfound American cultural conservatism. The First Amendment’s protection of flag desecration as a form of symbolic speech was one of the most divisive issues in American politics, and it comprised a major facet of the cultural conflict between liberals and conservatives.542 Although the Supreme Court issued several conservative rulings on cultural issues at this time, the decisions of Texas v. Johnson (1989) and United States v. Eichman (1990) did not follow this trend. This paper analyzes the extent to which the Supreme Court in general, and the Court’s conservative wing in particular, repudiated culture war pressures to uphold constitutional civil liberty.

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