Texas v. Johnson
This First Amendment activity is based on the landmark Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson dealing with free speech and flag burning. Using these talking points to start the discussion, argue your position, answering the question: Does the First Amendment protect flag burning as symbolic speech?
About These Resources
- Analyze the facts and case summary for Texas v. Johnson.
- Build arguments for both sides, starting with these talking points.
- Use critical thinking skills and share reflections on the discussion questions.
How to Use These Resources
This activity is a modified Oxford style debate.
- To get started, have participants read the Texas v. Johnson facts and case summary.
- Assign student attorneys to the issues listed in the talking points. They are suggested points– not a script–for the debate. Student attorneys are encouraged to add their own arguments.
- All other students are jurors who deliberate (and may refer to these talking points) during the open floor debate. They debate among themselves in the large group or smaller groups and come to a verdict after the attorneys present closing arguments.
Background: Texas v. Johnson
United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990) The Johnson decision only affected a Texas state law. In the wake of the decision, the federal government enacted a law that also prohibited flag burning. In order to try to get around constitutional challenges, the law prohibited all types of flag desecration, with the exception of burning and burying a worn-out flag, regardless of whether the action upset others. The Supreme Court held that this did not cure the constitutional defect and the same 5-4 majority from Johnson held that the law still impermissibly discriminated upon viewpoint and struck it down.