President-elect Trump’s proposal to criminalize flag burning, including through stripping Americans of their citizenship, represents an attempt to criminalize free speech, PEN America affirmed today in a statement.
In the morning of Tuesday, 29 November, President-elect Trump tweeted “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” The United States Supreme Court has previously ruled that criminal laws which penalize flag burning are Unconstitutional, with flag burning being a Constitutionally-protected form of political expression. The Supreme Court has also found that stripping an American citizen of his or her citizenship is similarly unconstitutional.
Given this, PEN America called upon President-elect Trump to re-affirm his commitment to Constitutional protections of free speech and expression, even for acts of political expression which he may find disrespectful.
“Since it has already been established that flag burning is a protected act of free expression in the United States, Trump’s pronouncement that there should be ‘consequences’ for flag burners seems to advocate rolling back Constitutional protections for free speech,” Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America, said. “That’s a tremendously worrying attitude for any President-elect to take, especially before his administration has even begun.”
PEN America, a nationwide group of writers and literary professionals, is dedicated to celebrating and safeguarding free expression in the United States and around the world. Earlier this month, PEN America announced the launch of its #LouderTogether campaign, meant to fortify free expression and media freedoms in the United States in a political atmosphere grown increasingly hostile to such freedoms.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at



Angelo Piro, Digitial Communications Assistant: [email protected], +1 646.779.4832