ADL Welcomes Supreme Court Decision Upholding Virginia State Ban on Cross Burning
New York, NY, April 7, 2003 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of a Virginia state law on cross burning. In its ruling in Virginia v. Black, the Court voted 6-3 to uphold a state statute that outlaws the use of a burning cross as a means of threatening another person, but not for other purposes.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
The burning cross is a symbol of hate, one that is inextricably linked to this nation's racist and segregationist past. In upholding Virginia's statute, the Supreme Court rightfully recognizes that the government has the clear power to outlaw the use of this particularly hateful symbol when the intent is to intimidate or threaten another person. Today's decision confirms what we have argued repeatedly - that threats are not constitutionally protected free speech. A burning cross that is erected with the intent to intimidate or instill fear does not deserve the same protection as other expressions of speech.
Cross-burning statutes do not necessarily run afoul of the First Amendment, as long as they are carefully drafted to outlaw only criminal acts and not unpopular political ideas. We believe that the Virginia statute does not attempt to criminalize racial hatred. It criminalizes the use of a burning cross as a means of intimidation.
ADL filed an amicus brief as lead attorney for a coalition of civil rights and civil liberties groups, including People For The American Way Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, National Conference For Community And Justice, Asian American Legal Defense And Education Fund, Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization Of America, Inc., American Jewish Committee, Jewish Council For Public Affairs, Commission Of Social Action Of Reform Judaism, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, National Gay And Lesbian Task Force, National Council Of Jewish Women, Inc., and Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law Of The Boston Bar Association.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.