A Virginia local news station is reporting that a man has been arrested for setting a neighbor’s flag on fire. While this may sound like senseless act of vandalism, the suspect has been charged with a felony. You are going to be flabbergasted when you find out how authorities are treating this case.
According to Richmond Virginia’s WTVR, a man has turned himself in to authorities after setting fire to a neighbor’s flag.
Twenty six year old Andrew Rosas was caught on a neighbor’s security camera setting fire to an American flag on the neighbor’s porch. Rosas turned himself in to police on Wednesday after the video was aired on local news.
The neighbor, James Tanner, was livid that someone could act with such disregard for his family’s safety, and that someone would set fire to his American flag.
Rosas is currently facing a charge of arson, but his legal problems may be more significant than that.
In the state of Virginia “burning a flag with malice is against the law and can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge,” according to CBS legal analyst Todd Stone.
He went on to say “That makes it a much more serious offense because it could catch the house on fire and cause risk to the people inside.”
As the US flag is one of our most cherished symbols, many people have reacted to this story online, saying things like:
“Why are they stopping at these few charges? Attempted murder should be charged for every living person inside- animal abuse charges for all the pets down to the last goldfish. Trespassing with intent to harm or possibly kill… and the list could go on.”- Rene Kunkel
“Well someone needs to be made an example of and I nominate this nimrod. He should get everything they can throw at him from criminal mischief to attempted murder.”- Morte 21
“It ain’t ‘free speech’ when it is someone else’s private property.”- Bonnie MH
“What a scumbag. Take the flagpole off the house and beat him silly with it. If he doesn’t like our flag, how about wrapping him in an ISIS flag and drop him from a copter in Syria.”- Jeff
“Some people are born stupid.”- Douglas Adams
“He is lucky it wasn’t my house because he would have been shot.”- EAM
One of the more impassioned responses came from Nelson Nolley, who wrote “The Supreme Court was wrong when they ruled that burning the flag was a form of free speech! AMERICA has forgotten the history of our FLAG and how it came to exist!! Desecrating OUR FLAG in any way shape form or fashion is a slap in the FACE of every MAN or WOMAN who is or has served our country in capacity!”
Of course, the Supreme court has ruled that burning a flag is protected speech. In the 1989 case Texas vs Johnson, the Court, led by conservative chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled five to four that laws criminalizing the burning of an American flag in forty eight states were unconstitutional.
In the decision, written by Justice William Brennan, the court said “Recognizing that the right to differ is the centerpiece of our First Amendment freedoms, a government cannot mandate by fiat a feeling of unity in its citizens. Therefore that very same government cannot carve out a symbol of unity and prescribe a set of approved messages to be associated with that symbol.”
Of course, arson and trespassing are not protected under the First Amendment.
What do you think Rosas’ punishment should be if he is convicted? Please share your thoughts with us here.