Court rules Missouri's flag desecration law is unconstitutional - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Court rules Missouri's flag desecration law is unconstitutional

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

Some veterans say they're upset by the court's ruling.

The federal district court in Cape Girardeau ruled Tuesday that Missouri's statute banning flag desecration is unconstitutional and no longer able to be enforced.

The issue started in 2009, when Frank L Snider of Cape Girardeau cut up an American flag and put it in his front yard to express his anger towards the country. His neighbors complained, and police arrested him. However Snider claimed he was able to do such an act as part of his First Amendment right, the freedom of speech.

Currently the Missouri statute says, "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. National flag desecration is a class A misdemeanor."

The decision saying the statute is unconstitutional doesn't sit well with some veterans.

"It's wrong, that's all," said Mike Stafford, a United States veteran.

He said he doesn't agree with the court's decision that it's ok to destroy an American flag as a form of expression.

"We don't like it, we don't like for them to mess with the flag," said Stafford.

"It's not proper, that's the way I've been taught," said Vietnam veteran Charles Thrower.

He too said he would have reacted if he saw the Cape Girardeau man destroying a flag.

"I'd go try to pick it up, and let him know that it wasn't the right thing to do," said Thrower.

Both men say the American flag means too much to them to destroy it in that way.

"That's why we went to war, to protect ourselves, and our country and all," said Stafford.

"That's what I fought for in Vietnam, our rights, our freedoms," said Thrower.

But they also said they realize they fought for rights, one of them being the right to expression.

"I don't care if somebody wants to protest, they can wrap themselves in it, and burn all they want to, that's fine with me," said Thrower.

"That's what we fought for, that was the whole purpose of the thing, what represents us as a nation," said Stafford.

"It is a freedom of speech, and I understand that could be deemed as a freedom of speech, I still don't think you should burn a flag," said Thrower.

Thrower said he thinks it's ok to burn a flag to properly dispose of an old one, but not for other reasons.

"It goes against my grain in protest of anything," said Thrower.

"I just don't, I just don't get why they want to mess with the flag," said Stafford.

The Missouri statute still is stated as above, despite the court ruling.

This ruling is in accordance with a United States Supreme Court ruling from more than 20 years ago. In the Texas v Johnson case, the Supreme Court justices ruled that it was unconstitutional to convict a man for burning a flag.

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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