In Somers, Iowa, Homer Martz flew his U.S. flag upside down to protest the future placement of an oil pipeline near his home. He has been charged with desecrating Old Glory under Iowa code 718A , which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail to “publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state…”
The law, however, is unconstitutional. So said an Iowa Federal District Court judge in 2004, when he ruled Iowa’s flag desecration laws violated the First Amendment. Martz, a U.S. Army veteran, has told anyone who will listen that the Supreme Court has ruled citizens can burn the American flag, so presumably flying it Bizarro World-style is also okay. He’s right, too. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), that prohibitions on desecrating the American flag were unconstitutional.. It reaffirmed the holding in 1990.
Writes an exasperated Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional law expert, “The town of Somers appears to lack a single lawyer — or a telephone number for a single lawyer — to explain free speech protections to them.”
Is it too much to expect a municipality to absorb a First Amendment right that was settled almost a quarter century ago, and not persecute a veteran for exercising the rights he served to protect and preserve?
Apparently. They could google flag burning and learn that this law is void. Such incompetence in government, at any level, is unconscionable.