A federal judge has declared Missouri’s flag desecration law is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson issued a permanent injunction in the case of Frank Snider, who was arrested in 2009 for cutting up an American flag and throwing it into the street.
“The sense of patriotism that runs through Missouri is strong,” Attorney General Chris Koster told Fox News in a written statement. “Although we understood that defending the statute was an uphill battle, most Missourians have a strong reaction against flag desecration. Our defense of the statute was our attempt to give voice to that patriotic sentiment.”
The Attorney General’s office told Fox News they are still reviewing the judge’s ruling and haven’t made any decisions on next steps. Missouri is among at least 20 states with laws banning flag desecration.
Missouri’s flag desecration law states: “Any person who purposefully and publicly mutilates, defaces, defiles, tramples upon or otherwise desecrates the national flag of the United States or the state flag of the state of Missouri is guilty of the crime of flag desecration.”
The law considered flag desecration a misdemeanor penalty.
However, the judge ruled that the entire statute was invalid because it prohibits a substantial amount of protected speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the judge’s ruling, calling it “satisfying” but “not surprising.”
“It’s a long delayed victory in Missouri,” said ACLU attorney Tony Rothert in an interview with the Associated Press. “The Supreme Court has been pretty clear that these statues are unconstitutional.”
The Missouri chapter of the American Legion denounced the ruling and said it was a sad day for the state.
“Anger,” is how Kenneth Goth, the American Legion Dept. Commander described his reaction to Fox News. “There’s a lot of people who fight for our country and that flag. You never see a veteran do that because they know what the honor is.”
Goth said he is passionate about the American flag. To him, the flag “means my country.” He said people who desecrate the American flag do so to “show their stupidity.”
“People can take their freedom of speech a little too far and doing that to the American flag does,” he said.
With reporting from the Associated Press