Is flying the American flag upside down illegal? Here’s what the Supreme Court says

Is it legal to display the American flag upside down in Texas?

That was a question recently asked by a poster on Reddit Fort Worth who snapped a photo of an upside-down flag flying below a blue MAGA banner.

“Isn’t this illegal?” the poster asked.

Technically, flying a flag upside down is not a desecration of ancient glory, but, In accordance with the US Flag Code“Indicating severe distress in situations of extreme danger to life or property.”

Rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court have made moot the guidance in the flag law.

A post on Reddit shows an upside-down Texas state flag.A post on Reddit shows an upside-down Texas state flag.

A post on Reddit shows an upside-down Texas state flag.

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US Supreme Court considers science and the right to expression

In extreme cases, such as burning the flag. The Supreme Court ruledTwice, desecration of a state’s flag is protected expression under the First Amendment.

In the first case, Texas v. Johnson, Gregory Lee Johnson burned the flag in 1984 Republican National Convention In Dallas. Johnson was arrested for violating Texas law, fined $2,000, and sentenced to a year in prison. His case went to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the original ruling was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

“If there is a fundamental principle underlying the First Amendment,” he wrote, “it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or objectionable.” Judge William Brennanaccording to Texas v. Johnson issue.

In response, Congress passed an anti-flag burning law in 1989, but the Supreme Court invalidated it a year later in 1989. United States v. Eichmann As unconstitutional.

Upside down flag: a support for protest or a signal for help

Many see flipping the flag as a sign of disrespect, but it has traditionally been used as a call for help by individuals and groups. Sailors used it to indicate that their ship was in trouble. It is a widely used way of signaling for help.

More recently, it has been used by protesters on both sides of the ideological divide to show their discontent — with protesting activists The end of national abortion rights For the war in Iraq Legions of Donald Trump supporters Storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021..

“That was the strongest way for me to express my discomfort about the continuing war in Iraq,” Donald Vance said during an anti-war demonstration in Modesto, California, in 2000.

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