Texas v. Johnson


Case Summary:

The case Texas v. Johnson was taken to The Supreme Court when Gregory Lee Johnson appealed a Texas Court’s convictions against him. Johnson was convicted for burning an American Flag outside of the 1984 Republican National Convention in protest of President Reagan’s policies. He was arrested and convicted for one year in jail with a $2000 fine assessed. However, Johnson’s argument was that he was protected by the first amendment.


Is the desecration of an American flag, by burning or otherwise, a form of speech that is protected under the First Amendment?

Relevant Vocabulary:

  • Criminal Law: This violation was in the criminal aspect instead of civil, where Johnson not only got fined but had to go to jail for.

  • Symbolic Speech: This is protected under the first amendment which allowed Johnson to burn the flag as a representation of symbolism.

  • Trial of Court: The case began with the court that had original jurisdiction of the case and later on traveled to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and up to the Supreme Court.

  • Rule of 4: 4 of more of the justices agreed to hear the Texas v. Johnson case and ranted cert.


It is constitutional under the first amendment to express your beliefs using symbolic speech even if a group f people find it offensive.


The case created a precedent and made the expression of speech more defined and allowed symbolic speech to be constitutional. It was one of the first cases that questioned the federal government and first amendment when it came to the desecration of the American Flag.

Future Significance:

Today the case still has the set precedent that allows symbolic speech. People go to extremes using symbolism that is widely offensive to many yet still constitutional. The future it will be decided how far is too far.