Geoffrey R. Stone on the History of the Bush-Era Flag Burning Ban

Bush-Era Flag Burning Ban Didn’t Fly With High Court

Once in the White House, Bush was up against the realities of governing and the First Amendment, not a rival politician.

The two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 1989 and 1990, both early in Bush’s lone term, definitively established the legality of the practice, said Sheldon H. Nahmod, of Chicago-Kent College of Law.

The decisions, which split the court, 5-4, were “wildly unpopular” with the American public, said constitutional scholar Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School.


Bush’s strong criticism of flag burning, as well as the similar views held by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, aren’t surprising in light of their World War II service, Stone said.

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