States may ban cross burning. (Upfront Update).
States can prosecute someone for burning a cross with the purpose of intimidation ("Is Hate Free Speech?" 9/27/02), the Supreme Court ruled last month. The vote was 6 to 3. The Court ruling said that the First Amendment permits the government to single out cross burning as "a particularly virulent form of intimidation," as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor phrased it in her written opinion. But state laws must clearly put the burden on prosecutors to prove that the act was intended as a threat and not as a form of symbolic expression, the Justices ruled. Separately, the Court agreed that the law at issue in the case, a 50-year-old Virginia statute, had been unconstitutional because it let Juries assume that cross burning was meant to Intimidate.