Case Study 2
Burning a selective service registration certificate

In 1966 four friends burned their draft cards on the steps of the South Boston Courthouse to protest the Vietnam War. After the cards were burned, a crowd that had been watching attacked the four young men. An FBI agent in the crowd took the men into the courthouse, where they were arrested and charged with violating a law that made it illegal to destroy or mutilate a draft card. The protesters said that this law unconstitutionally denied them freedom of speech.

  • Is this speech protected?
  • If not, what harm might occur as a result of the speech?
  • What value or right is conflicting with free speech in this case?
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