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Legislation and the Constitution

Did you know that all laws in the United States must agree with the Constitution? Sometimes Congress passes a law with a conflict, but the law can then be challenged in court. If the Supreme Court decides that a challenged law is unconstitutional, it cannot take effect.

For example, Gregory Johnson was arrested in Texas for burning an American flag in front of Dallas City Hall. He wished to make a statement against the policies of President Reagan. He was convicted under a Texas law which makes flag desecration (vandalizing or dishonoring a flag) a crime. Although many Texans supported this law, the Supreme Court ruled that burning or otherwise desecrating a flag is protected under the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, and it was ruled that other forms of expression, such as Mr. Johnson's political statement of burning the flag, are also forms of speech. Because of this ruling, Mr. Johnson was released from prison, and the Texas law that he was convicted under can no longer be used.

Click the link below to find out where a bill you write could run into a conflict with the Constitution. If you think your bill might have a conflict, you can still write it. However, you need to consider that your fellow e-Legislators may be less interested in a bill that could be unconstitutional.

If you want to protect your bill from a Constitutional challenge, consider setting limits on behavior instead of banning it outright. For example, perhaps the Texas flag desecration statute would have been permitted if it simply made flag burning illegal on national holidays, or required a person to get a permit before burning a flag. Also, keep in mind that a potential fight in court will add to the estimated cost of your bill, as you will need to pay for legal fees.

Constitutional Issues



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