Mutilating the American Flag: Now O.K. in Nebraska

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Close Up of Burning American Flag USA --- Image by © Trent Swanson/Verge/Corbis

Mutilating the American flag was banned in Nebraska. Now a lawsuit by a member of the Westboro Baptist Church has led to an overturn of that ban.

The church member, Megan Phelps-Roper, filed a lawsuit in July challenging the ban–which forbade a person from mutilating, defacing, burning or trampling on the American flag–on the grounds that it infringed on her right to free speech. The Westboro Baptist Church, reports¬†the AP, are known to “protest at soldier funerals around the country because they believe U.S. troop deaths are punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Group members often trample on the U.S. flag, wear it and display it upside-down as part of their protests.”

Since Nebraska’s ban was made (back in 1977), the U.S. Supreme Court has made rulings that place flag desecration in the category of protected speech, which led to U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf’s ruling in Phelps-Roper’s favor.

The AP reports that it’s not clear whether the ruling applies solely to the members of the church or to all residents of Nebraska.