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Federal Judge Rules Missouri Law Against Flag Desecration Unconstitutional

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"satisfying."

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A federal judge in Missouri has ruled the state's law against flag desecration is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson handed down the ruling Tuesday in the case of a man arrested in 2009 for cutting up an American flag with a knife then throwing it into the street:

Frank L. Snider, upset the Social Security Administration denied him disability benefits, attempted to set fire to a U.S. flag in his front yard on Oct. 20, 2009. Snider then shredded it with a knife and threw it in the street. A neighbor called police to complain, and a Cape Girardeau police officer arrived, issued Snider a summons for littering and left.

Snider was later charged with violating the state’s flag desecration law, arrested and held in jail for eight hours. The charge was later dropped after the prosecutor reviewed case law about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that a Texas state law criminalizing flag desecration was unconstitutional. A Cape Girardeau city ordinance prohibiting flag desecration was repealed in February 2011.

Missouri's law states: “Any person who purposefully and publicly mutilates, defaces, defiles, tramples upon or otherwise desecrates the national flag of the United States or the state flag of the state of Missouri is guilty of the crime of flag desecration.”

According to the Post-Dispatch, Jackson's ruling said the law is “unconstitutional on its face” and ordered state officials to stop “enforcing or threatening to enforce” it.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, which filed the lawsuit on Snider's behalf, hailed the ruling as "a long-delayed victory in Missouri," according to the Associated Press.

“It’s satisfying to have Missouri’s statute finally declared unconstitutional, but it’s not surprising at all," ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said.

Missouri is one of approximately 20 states with laws banning flag desecration.

In a statement to Fox News, the state attorney general's office said they were still reviewing the judges ruling and had not decided the next steps it will take.

“The sense of patriotism that runs through Missouri is strong,” Attorney General Chris Koster said. “Although we understood that defending the statute was an uphill battle, most Missourians have a strong reaction against flag desecration.  Our defense of the statute was our attempt to give voice to that patriotic sentiment.”

(h/t Fox News)

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