Texas v. Johnson (1989)

Lesson Plan

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that burning the American flag is a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment. Students learn about the First Amendment freedom of speech and the principle that “the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” They then learn about the dissenting view by distinguishing between arguments from the Court’s majority opinion and the dissent.


  • Describe the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and the kind of speech it protects.
  • Identify the main arguments put forth in the case.
  • Explain why the Supreme Court said flag-burning is protected speech.
  • Identify the impact of the Court’s decision on freedom of speech in general.
  • Compare arguments made by dissenting justices with those made by the majority.