9th Circuit Court Bans Wearing the American Flag

One of Alex's favorite lies is that the 9th Circuit Court put out a decision that banned students from wearing American flags on their clothing in California. He uses this lie to paint the 9th Circuit as crazy and un-American, solely because the court was the one that initially blocked President Trump's travel ban in early 2017.

Here is a clip of Alex explaining his version of the story.

Alex cites this ruling all the time, but unfortunately, it is not true. Or, at very least, the way he explains it is very dishonest. If you would like to consult the primary source, please feel free to click here to read the 9th Circuit's decision in its entirety.

The case that was before the 9th Circuit Court was not one about whether or not people can wear American flags on their clothes. The case was about a specific public high school in California, Live Oak High School. School administrators had asked specific students to remove or turn inside-out American flag clothing, and these students sued the school because they felt their free speech, due process, and equal protection were being infringed upon.

Their decision that the school did not violate the students' right to free expression hinges on the context of the case in question, and relies on these facts that you can find in the court's decision linked above:

  1. The school officials asked the students to remove their flag clothing on Cinco de Mayo.
  2. The school officials had received tips that there was going to be a racially-based fight that day, and were trying to protect all parties from this possible outcome.
  3. In addition to the school having a "history of violence among students...some drawn along racial lines," there specifically was a racially motivated incident the previous year on Cinco de Mayo, which sets a strong precedent for the officials to take the tips they received seriously.
  4. The students wearing American flag clothing were not punished.
  5. School administrators are tasked with balancing their students' rights with the need to create a safe environment for all students, and the wearing of American flag clothing on Cinco de Mayo at this specific school was deemed to put that safe environment in danger.

We can get into the weeds about the dynamics between the students, but that is irrelevant to the matter at hand.  Alex claims that the 9th Circuit Court ruled that students can't wear American flags at school, and this is patently false.

The ruling that the court affirmed was that the school officials were not impeding the students' free speech rights by insisting that they not wear American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo, especially considering the history of the school and the concrete threats that were made that day. The court further clarified that they were not ruling that students could not wear flags on their clothes, only that the officials did not act inappropriately, and that their actions were to prevent a real threat.

The Supreme Court refused to hear this case, generally an indication that they agree with the ruling.