It doesn't seem like President-elect Donald Trump can go a full week without picking a fight with someone online. After attacking the cast of the musical 'Hamilton' earlier this month, The Donald has set his sights on anyone who burns the American flag. Right now, burning the American flag is protected under the U.S. constitution as a form of free speech. But Trump wants to change that.
Early yesterday morning, he tweeted his view on the subject.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Of course, we don't know how serious Trump is about this statement or any of the foreign and domestic policy statements that he's condensed to 140 characters of less. But if he did follow through with this threat, America wouldn't be the first country to protect the flag through criminal law. Here are 17 other countries that have banned desecrating flags.
Burning the national flag of Argentina or the standards of its provinces can land you in jail for up to four years. It's also illegal to insult the flag, coat of arms or national anthem. They probably aren't keen on Andrew Lloyd Weber's Evita either.
Only very specific people in Brazil can burn the South American nation's flag. When flags begin to fall apart, owners are expected to deliver them to the military, which incinerates the old standards in a special ceremony on Flag Day (November 19).
It's not surprising that the authoritarian state forbids flag desecration, which includes burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or tramping upon the nation's banner. But the punishment is relatively light compared to other countries. People caught abusing China's flag could face as little as 15 days in prison.
According to state law, anyone who exposes the Republic of Croatia, its emblems or its national anthem to "ridicule, contempt or severe disdain" faces up to one year of prison. So if you think their banner looks like the Netherlands flag playing checkers, keep it to yourself.
The Scandinavian country is one of a few nations that allows people to burn its flag but prohibits desecrating the flags of other countries. Austria and China have similar laws.
Dishonoring the Finnish flag is a minor offence in the northern European country, which charges a small fine for abusing its national emblem. So if you accidentally scorch one, It'll cost you some Euros.
You can burn the French flag without fear of repercussion if you're in the right place at the right time. According to French law, it's illegal to insult the national anthem or desecrate the flag at an event organized by the public. Doing so could get you slapped with a fine of 7,500 Euros. And if that event happens to be a large gathering - like a soccer game - an offender can face a prison sentence of six months on top of the fine. So don't try to drown out "La Marseillaise" with "Die Wacht am Rhein" at a French bar.
German law doesn't forbid flag desecration in general, but it does prohibit any act that denounces emblems of the state, including the flag, the flag's colors or the national anthem. Basically, the German government doesn't want to see a coup d'etat like the Nazi uprising occur again, but it also doesn't want to restrict free speech. So if you're vacationing there, err on the side of caution and avoid saying something like "I hate all the black, red and yellow crap in this country."
Burning the Israeli flag is bad for your health. According to state law, flag desecration is a criminal offence that comes with a fine of approximately $15,000 (USD) or three years in jail. On top of that, offenders can be denied scholarships and health benefits for up to six years.
Don't talk trash about Italy's flag unless you have deep pockets. Insulting the standard is punishable with a fine of 1,000-5,000 Euros if committed in private. That increases to a penalty of 5,000-10,000 EUR if you insult the banner in public. And anyone who purposefully dirties the flag - let alone burning it - could face up to two years in prison.
Like Denmark, Japan prohibits burning the flags of other countries but not its own. Anyone caught destroying another nation's standard can face a fine of up to 200,000 yen (app. $1,750 U.S.) or two years of imprisonment with forced manual labor. But the law is only enforced at the foreign country's request, so burning flags there is kind of like Russian roulette...for anarchists.
Mexico rarely enforces its law against desecrating the national flag. But an interesting case did come up in 2008 when folk poet Sergio Hernán Witz Rodriguez was found guilty of denigrating the flag in a poem. The state wanted him sentenced to four years, but the judge instead issued a fine of 50 pesos (app. $2.50 USD) and a warning.
14. New Zealand
New Zealand law forbids dishonoring the nation's flag. But what "dishonor" means is up to interpretation. The only person brought to trial for burning a flag was school teacher Paul Hopkinson, who set the banner ablaze in protest of the Iraq War. He was initially convicted and issued a fine. But he appealed the case and won by arguing that he wasn't actually dishonoring the emblem by torching it.
Whatever you do, don't touch the flag of the Philippines while visiting the Southeast Asian nation. There are so many laws surrounding the flag that you might break one just by sneezing near it. State law says it's illegal to use the flag as clothing, a tablecloth, a cover for unveiling statues, a covering for walls or even as a whip.
Someone should warn Devo about that last part.
Breaking the law comes with a fine of 5,000-20,000 pesos ($100-400 U.S.) and/or imprisonment for up to a year.
Switzerland includes a double-standard in its flag laws. Anyone who burns the flag of Switzerland faces a fine or up to three years in prison. And the same punishment applies to burning the flags of other countries - unless you're from that country. So if you really want to burn your nation's flag, but it's against the law at home, head to Switzerland.
Or check out this virtual flag-burning website.
Banner image: Donald Trump speaks during a press conference on July 16, 2016 in New York. (JStone/Shutterstock)