Flag burning

A burning American flag
A burning American flag

Ceremonial burning of a flag is the most dignified means of retiring a flag whose appearance is no longer presentable.

Flag burning as a form of political protest can occur in any country around the world. Each country has different laws regarding flag burning, or flag desecration. In the United States, burning an American flag has been ruled by the Supreme Court to be a form of protected speech, with the use of the US Flag being considered a form of symbolic speech. However, restrictions may still apply on the time place and manner, and theft of a flag is still illegal per local jurisdictions.

While we support free speech, we recommend that the American Flag, and all flags, be treated with respect, and displayed in a dignified manner. We recommend that the only proper time to burn a flag is when the flag is retired, and in a dignified ceremony. When a flag can no longer be displayed with dignity — if it has become irreparably frayed, damaged, torn, faded, or soiled, the time has come for a dignified retirement, preferably through a ceremonial burning, such as outlined by the American Legion. Alternatively, a US flag that is no longer presentable may be turned in to a VFW or American Legion.

Flag Burning (as an act of desecration) Legality Around the World

United States: Supreme Court rules in 1989 and 1990 that laws banning flag burning are unconstitutional. Since 1991, several Constitutional Amendments have been proposed, but none have passed.

Canada: No laws prohibiting flag desecration or flag burning.

Algeria: Illegal

Argentina: Illegal

Australia: Permitted if orderly

Austria: Illegal

Brazil: Illegal

Belgium: Permitted

Denmark: Permitted to burn the Danish flag, but illegal to burn foreign flags, as this could affect foreign policy and constitute a threat.

China: Illegal

Croatia: Illegal

Faroe Islands: Illegal

Finland: Illegal

France: Illegal in specific gatherings

Germany: Illegal

India: illegal

Israel: Illegal

Japan: Implicitly permitted to burn the national flag as a form of protected speech, but the burning of foreign flags is punishable, but only if the nation formally protests.

Mexico: Illegal

New Zealand: Illegal

Norway: Permitted

Pakistan: Unclear

Peru: Unclear

Philippines: Illegal

Portugal: Illegal

Romania: Illegal

Saudi Arabia: Illegal

Serbia: Illegal

Sweden: not specifically prohibited, but prohibited under disorderly conduct.

Switzerland: Illegal

Turkey: Illegal

United Kingdom: Permitted

Uruguay: Illegal