President-elect Donald Trump suggested people who burn the American flag should lose their citizenship Tuesday, saying in a tweet there “must be consequences” for such actions.
“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” he tweeted.
Some of the protesters who gathered in response to Trump’s election have burned American flags. The Supreme Court has recognized the act as protected speech under the First Amendment.
Trump transition team spokesman Jason Miller defended the tweet on CNN Tuesday. “Flag burning should be illegal, end of story,” he said. “I think most Americans would agree with me that flag burning should be illegal. It’s completely despicable.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also weighed in, saying people have a right to do it but shouldn’t be surprised if others don’t respond well.
“I don’t see why someone would want to burn it,” he said on MSNBC. “But we have a First Amendment right. But where I come from you honor the flag. If someone wanted to show their First Amendment right, I’d be afraid for their own safety, but [we’ll] protect our First Amendment.”
Burning the American flag is widely thought to be a form of free speech, however, desecration of the flag has been declared to be illegal according to the U.S. flag code:
- Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
- This subsection does not prohibit any conduct consisting of the disposal of a flag when it has become worn or soiled.
- As used in this section, the term “flag of the United States” means any flag of the United States, or any part thereof, made of any substance, of any size, in a form that is commonly displayed.