A Missouri law on the books since 1980 was ruled unconstitutional in March. Attorney General Chris Koster wants the state's flag desecration law reinstated, according to the Associated Press. Koster filed an appeal Thursday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state and won on behalf of a client. The attorney general's office defended the lawsuit on behalf the "patriotic sentiment" of Missourians.
* A hearing date has not been set for the appeal. In the case of Snider v. City of Cape Girardeau, Frank L. Snider III was awarded $7,000 in damages in December after spending seven hours in jail Oct. 23, 2009.
* Attorneys for the plaintiff allege the Missouri law is unconstitutional based on the First Amendment of free speech and the 14th Amendment relating to "depriving any person of life, liberty, or property... ." Snider tried to burn an American flag in his yard as a protest against his unemployment, which he blamed on the United States.
* When Snider was unable to light an American flag on fire in October 2009, he cut it up with a knife and scattered it onto his residential street. The AP story reveals a neighbor complained and the perpetrator was ticketed for littering. After learning of the anti-desecration statute, a police officer arrested Snider on that charge.
* Several lawsuits since 1980 have invalidated many state laws that made flag desecration illegal. The most prominent was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1989 against the state of Texas for a similar ban on flag desecration.
* The law is still in the Missouri Revised Statutes and has not been repealed. The text reads, "Any person who purposefully and publicly mutilates, defaces, defiles, tramples upon or otherwise desecrates the national flag of the United States or the state flag of the state of Missouri is guilty of the crime of flag desecration."
* Courthouse News Service reveals prosecutors dropped the flag desecration charge when officials determined Missouri's law may be unconstitutional. Yet Snider had already spent time in jail. In the federal case decided in March, the judge determined arresting officer Matthew Peters violated Snider's civil rights.
* Despite asking for punitive damages, Snider was awarded only $7,000 -- $1,000 for each hour spent in jail. The federal judge dismissed claims for damages against the city of Cape Girardeau and prosecutors in the Dec. 14 ruling.
William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.
- Politics & Government
- Crime & Justice
- American flag
- American Civil Liberties Union
- flag desecration
- Chris Koster