Supreme Court to review cross-burning case

Justices likely to hear arguments this year
Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), Aug. 12, 2002

Virginia’s law banning cross burning strikes the proper balance between freedom of speech and freedom from fear, state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said in a brief filed yesterday with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court has agreed to review a 4-3 ruling in November by the Virginia Supreme Court that the law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. It probably will hear arguments later this year and decide the case before June.

Virginia’s statute is similar to laws many states adopted in the 1950s in response to the burning of crosses by the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate blacks.

In striking down the Virginia law, the state Supreme Court majority relied on the high court’s invalidation of a Minnesota law in 1992. Writing for the majority, Justice Donald W. Lemons said Virginia’s law differed little from Minnesota’s.

Since the Minnesota law was struck down, cross-burning laws have been upheld in three states and invalidated in three others in addition to Virginia.

The General Assembly amended the law this year to make it a felony to burn any object with the intent to intimidate.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 12, 2002.
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