Germany Moves To Expand Anti-Free Speech Laws With The Criminalization Of Flag Burning

cross-posted from Jonathan Turley. About the coutry with its brown tradition.

Here’s Mr. Turley:

Recently we discussed how decades of anti-free speech policies in Germany have reduced the expectations of citizens in that country to the level of an authoritarian regime. A survey, conducted by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach(and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) found that only 18 percent of Germans feel free to express their views in public. Undeterred, leaders have called for greater limits on free speech during election periods — a concept that would normally be viewed as counterintuitive outside of the new European model. In addition, Germany just announced that it would expand anti-free speech laws even further to criminalize the burning of flags — an expression of free speech protected in this country.

For years, we have discussed the unrelenting attacks on free speech in Europe with the expansion of hate speech laws and the general criminalization of speech, including international speech crimes. France has also been a leader in the crackdown on free speech. Most concerning is the call for European style speech limits in this country.

German lawmakers have been pushing for a flag burning crime since 2017 when Israeli flags were burned at a protest in Berlin. As always, the response to seeing offensive forms of speech in Germany is to make it a crime. The new law would impose fines or prison sentences on those who burned a national flag. Burning the German flag is already a crime.

Junior Justice Minister Christian Lange was the perfect spokesperson for those who oppose free speech of those with whom they disagree. He said simply “We will not allow these symbolic acts of hatred and contempt to continue.” Problem solved. If you find the speech of others to be contemptible, you throw them in jail and threaten any other speakers that they will be arrested if they utter thoughts deemed offensive to the majority.

President Donald Trump has called for the criminalization of flag burning.  However, in the United States, the destruction of the flag remains a protected form of free speech. In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is considered one of the core cases defining free speech in the United States. Brennan was joined by Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, and Kennedy (Kennedy wrote a concurrence). I agree with the decision as did conservatives like Scalia. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a powerful concurrence where he famously stated:

“For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged against a pure command of the Constitution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of those rare cases.

Though symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit. The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt.”

Full post here.

From the comments:

I see that Germany has not learned one thing from Hitler’s crimes against his people and all humanity. Not a good fact to show that Angela Merkel knows anything about real democracy.

Let’s try that once more:
Germany seems determined to re-establish the stereotype of its government as rigid, regimented and totalitarian. Free speech is the keystone freedom. If you are not free to speak, you can’t protest denial of other freedoms. Germany is setting themselves up to repeate the tragic mistake of the Nuremberg Laws – by denying people within its borders the crucial rfeedom to engage in graphic dissent.