President-elect Donald Trump has proposed stripping citizenship from political protesters. He sent this in an unsettling twitter during the darkest hours of the night — so much for the First Amendment. Apparently, someone forgot to give Trump a heads up about the U.S. Constitution and/or hide his twitter machine.
In countries with the most severe penalties for protesting, all but one has lighter sentences than Trump proposed. Political protesters in Egypt get seven years in jail. In Tasmania, they get two years in jail and $100,000 in fines. North Korea gives them five years of corrections jail. Even Trump’s good buddy in Moscow gives protesters just five years in jail.
Okay, the president-elect thinks he can criminalize flag burners. But the Supreme Court has held that if someone chooses to burn the U.S. flag as a political statement, it is okay according to Texas v. Johnson:
‘If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.’
‘[There is no indication] either in the text of the Constitution or in our cases interpreting it . . . that a separate juridical category exists for the American flag alone.’
Justice Antonin Scalia is the man Trump hold as a model for his Supreme Court nominee, and even this judge voted for Johnson, according to Think Progress.
But now that Trump can taste the power of the presidency, the almost-president is convinced he has the power to strip people of their citizenship and their voting rights. Trump either doesn’t understand this part of the Constitution, or he is simply ignoring it. It is against federal law for Americans to lose their citizenship, except for:
‘Committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States.’
Burning the flag is not exactly an “armed rebellion” or “treason.” It is actually an example of democracy, which hangs on the free expression of political ideas. That includes flag burning.
So when Trump wants to take away flag burners’ citizenship, he would take away their right to vote against him. Maybe that is his point, and that is a frightening thought. Stealing people’s voting rights based solely upon their beliefs makes elections meaningless.
The only country that punishes its people more harshly for political protests is Iraq. The punishment in Iraq is “death by hanging, shooting, stoning, or falling from a height.’
The U.S. must remain vigilant in containing its new president’s wild ideas.
Here are some of America’s citizens response to Trump’s tweet:
Let's put Americans who own flags on a registry so we can make sure they're taking care of their flags.
— His Divine Grace Dr. Duncan Trussell PHD (@duncantrussell) November 29, 2016
and burning a flag is not a threat. It is a protest using a piece of cloth representing the USA
— Helen Austin (@helenaustin) November 30, 2016
How many people burn the flag in the US? Trump comments are ridiculous, unnecessary
— Logical (@anradila17) November 30, 2016
Featured Image: Getty Images/Joe Raedle.
H/T: Think Progress.