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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Tosses Missouri’s Flag-Desecration Law

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Missouri's law banning flag desecration is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson ruled this week in Frank L. Snider III v. City of Cape Girardeau, et al.

Snider was arrested in October 2009 in Cape Girardeau, after he tried, but failed, to burn the flag in his front yard, then shredded it and threw it into the street.

The 13-page ruling does not specify why Snider did it, other than "to express his anger with the government".

Jackson issued a permanent injunction ordering the state, its political subdivisions and its officials from enforcing or threatening to enforce the law.

"In summary, plaintiff has established that: (1) § 578.095 regulates expressive conduct and thus implicates the First Amendment; (2) § 578.095 is overbroad in that it punishes a substantial amount of protected free speech judged in relation to its legitimate sweep; (3) and the court cannot apply a limiting construction that would bring render the statute constitutional," Jackson wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented Snider. ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said he was not surprised by the ruling.

Missouri is one of at least 20 states with flag desecration laws.

"It's a long-delayed victory in Missouri," Rothert told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The Supreme Court has been pretty clear that these statutes are unconstitutional."

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