Lincoln, Neb. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and other officials have agreed the state’s flag-mutilation law is unconstitutional, siding with a Kansas-based church that stages protests outside funerals of military members.
The stance by Bruning and others, made Monday in a conference call with a federal judge, cleared the way for the judge to issue a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law.
A member of Westboro Baptist Church had filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Nebraska’s flag law, which makes it illegal to intentionally cast “contempt or ridicule” upon an American or Nebraska flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling it.
Even though a final judgment in the case is pending, Bruning and others’ agreement that the law is unconstitutional essentially settles the issue and leaves the state without a flag-mutilation law.
“I’m disappointed they rolled over so easy,” said Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov, who had charged a member of the church with flag mutilation. “They seemed to have neglected our concern in the fight.”
Bruning said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling two decades ago clearly rendered Nebraska’s law unconstitutional and it was just a matter of time before a lawsuit was filed that would result in the 1977 law being overturned.
“Any first-year law student understands Nebraska has to comply with rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court,” Bruning said when told of Polikov’s comments.
“I’m not going to waste the resources of the state defending a law the Supreme Court has clearly said is unconstitutional,” he added.
U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, who issued the permanent injunction Monday, indicated his belief that the law was unconstitutional last week when he issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the law against the church.