While there is much discussion about whether or not the government of South Carolina should remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of its state capitol or not, less attention has been paid to laws currently on the books in the former states of the Confederacy that expressly prohibit the burning of, or in some cases the mere insulting of, the flag representing those states during the Civil War. The five states with laws carrying statues prohibiting the desecration of the confederate flag are as follows:
- South Carolina – As the state that was the first to formerly secede from the Union in defense of slavery and white supremacy, South Carolina has a law making it illegal to “jeer at, trample upon or cast contempt, either by word or act, upon any such flag, standard, color or ensign.”
- Mississippi – In the still unreconstructed state of Mississippi, which only recently decided to ratify the amendment to the constitution outlawing slavery, it is prohibited by law to “cast contempt, either by word or act, upon any such flag, standard, color or ensign”.
As reported by Philly.com, however, all such laws are unconstitutional as affirmed time and again by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 and again in 1990 that laws prohibiting the burning of the official flag of the United States are unconstitutional. The Court ruled that the burning of the American flag is protected free speech under the First Amendment, and that state governments “may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” This undoubtedly applies to all attempts to ban the desecration of the confederate flag as well.