The First Amendment and Texas Law Essay

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This essay is on the law cases Virginia v. Black and Texas v. Johnson.

Issues before the Court

The issues before the court in the two cases were related to the first Amendment about the speech. Hate speech, in particular, was the concept that was analyzed. In Texas vs. Johnson, the issue was whether cross burning is one of the constituents of symbolic speech as provided by the First Amendment. In Virginia vs. Black, the issue was whether cross burning statutes in Virginia or any other state as a prima facie evidence unconstitutional or not (Holzer, 649).

The decision of the courts and the reasons

In Texas vs. Johnson, the court ruled in favor of Johnson. It argued that cross burning constitutes symbolic speech and the First Amendment in the Constitution protects it. The reasoning of the majority argued that the freedom of speech protects some of the actions that are seen by the society as very offensive. However, the outrage of the society is not a justification to suppress the free speech. The majority argued that the Texas Law discriminated upon the viewpoint in that it allowed actions that were respectful of venerated objects that include the burning of a worn-out flag (Holzer, 649).

In Virginia vs. Black, the court ruled that such a statute was unconstitutional although the majority argued that a state may ban cross burning if it is carried out with the intention to intimidate.
Using the act as a prima facie was found to be unconstitutional by the court, which means that the state of Virginia cannot convict a person on the ground that he or she burns a cross unless such an act is done with the intention of causing harm. The judges asserted that in the case of the statute remaining as it is, a citizen's ideas might be suppressed and not expressed. It was likely that one may be convicted of such offenses. The court argued that it is important and necessary to create a separation between the expression of anger or hatred from the intentions of causing harm or threat when it comes to the ground of lawful conviction. It is therefore against the First Amendment to allow the feeling to be interpreted as an intention to cause fear or perform some illegal actions (Hartley, 1).


One of the precedent cases to Texas v. Johnson was the….....

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Works Cited

Hartley, Roger C. "Cross Burning-Hate Speech as Free Speech: A Comment on Virginia v. Black." Cath. UL Rev. 54 (2004): 1.

Holzer, Henry Mark. "Texas v. Johnson." Santa Clara L. Rev. 30 (1990): 649.

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