The ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter today to members of the Iberville Parish Council warning them that a proposed ban on desecrating the American, Louisiana or Iberville Parish flag would violate the Constitution.
“This country was founded on the principles of dissent, and fundamental to those principles is the right to criticize the government,” said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “While members of the Parish Council may not like to see alterations of any kind to official flags, the Constitution protects the rights of dissent and to use images of the flag, even in ways that elected officials may disapprove.”
The letter notes that in 1990, the U.S Supreme Court struck down a federal flag protection law (United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310). A year later the Court reaffirmed the First Amendment right to burn or otherwise destroy the flag a year later in (Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397).
As reported by the New Orleans Times Picayune, the proposed ordinance says it would be illegal to put any “word, mark, design or advertisement of any nature” on the flag. Further, it would outlaw “public mutilation” and intentional acts to defile, burn or “cast contempt” on any American, Louisiana or Iberville Parish flag. This would also ban items such as Budweiser beer cans, Harley Davidson motorcycle ads, and many credit cards that include a flag image.