Causes and nations, political parties, lodges and ecclesiastical groups seek to knit the loyalty of their followings to a flag or banner, a color or design.
Pregnant with expressive content, the flag as readily signifies this Nation as does the combination of letters found in "America." We have not automatically concluded, however, that any action taken with respect to our flag is expressive.
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In my judgment, rules that apply to a host of other symbols, such as state flags, armbands, or various privately promoted emblems of political or commercial identity, are not necessarily controlling.
The expressive, overtly political nature of this conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent.
In these circumstances, Johnson's burning of the flag was conduct "sufficiently imbued with elements of communication," it has expressive elements.
In deciding whether particular conduct possesses sufficient communicative elements to bring the First Amendment into play, we have asked whether [a]n intent to convey a particularized message was present, and [whether] the likelihood was great that the message would be understood by those who viewed it.
The very purpose of a national flag is to serve as a symbol of our country; it is, one might say, "the one visible manifestation of two hundred years of nationhood." at 603 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting).
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He did, however, accept an American flag handed to him by a fellow protestor who had taken it from a flagpole outside one of the targeted buildings.