It has become common in America today to hear people refer to the President of the United States as "not-my-president". Is such a statement as saying that the head of our Executive Branch is "not-my-president" something that's unlawful for any citizen or member of the military?

Although we have freedom of expression in America (and I wholeheartedly support it!), there is already a proposal to make it illegal to burn the flag of the United States. I do believe a kingdom divided against itself will hardly stand!

So likewise--short of encouraging draconian rule--I'm wondering how as a country we've considered or dealt with reducing or curbing the division that can arise from such public displays of rebellion against the leader we lawfully elect into office. Perhaps there's a rule about it that would only apply to the military. Or maybe there is something requiring allegiance or respect out of each citizen for the Office of the President.

If not, I'd like to know if any such bill has ever been introduced to the House of Representatives, and whether there is any online reference where I can find out more about past issues or ongoing discussions regarding this matter.

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    Anything like this would be quickly turned into draconian rule. The more important than eliminating "public displays of rebellion" would be quashing displays of dissent. We are a nation of more than one mindset and I think it is very good thing. We had laws like this during WWI and people were punished for publishing truthful information about the pandemic of 1918 because it reduced trust in government. By the way, there was a lot of "not-my-president" when Obama held that job. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


The US developed from an earlier kingdom, and the First Amendment enshrines the main issue that led to our departure from that kingdom. The underlying political premise has been that disagreement is to be dealt with rationally and not through force, such as where opinions contrary to those articulated by the government are squashed (in order to eliminate divisions).

There have been numerous laws passed in the US to outlaw "contrary" speech including "disrespectful" speech, and they are constantly being overturned by the Supreme Court. Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 and U.S. v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 are two recent reaffirmations that such laws are unconstitutional. The only way such a law can work is if the Constitution is amended to in some way re-write the First Amendment, like this.

Outlawing indirect insults towards political figures ("not my Speaker of the House", "not my FBI director") would require an even more extensive suspension of the First Amendment. It is possible that at some time, a bill was introduced to outlaw saying disparaging things about POTUS, but I would be surprised if it got out of committee, because it would fail challenge in court.

The most-likely retrenchment on our freedom of expression is likely to be a flag-burning law, which has relatively wide support in the US. There are a number of interpretive problems associated with the key concept "physical desecration". Even more interpretive problems would arise if Congress were given the power (via an anti-disparagement amendment) to outlaw "disparagement of public officials". Can one simultaneously "respect the Office of the President" and "disrespect the holder of the office"?

As for specifically restricting the military, that's a challenging issue. It is a court-martial offense for a commissioned military officer to use contemptuous words against the President and Congress (10 USC 888), and by directive from the Department of Defense this also applies to enlisted personnel. SCOTUS in Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733 articulated the Military Necessity doctrine, that "The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it". So "not my President" probably is illegal for soldiers. This article reviews various First Amendment issues as they pertain to the military.

  • Excellent answer, thank you. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 14:57

I agree with the above answer that this would pose insurmountable First Amendment problems under modern precedent. However, such a law has been enacted in the past, and people were actually convicted under it. The Sedition Act, which, among other things, banned "seditious" speech against the president, was used to prosecute a number of newspaper printers that editorialized against then-president John Adams in favor of Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps fortunately for Adams, the Sedition Act expired automatically before Jefferson became president in 1801. It's worth noting that Marbury v. Madison, the first Supreme Court case to declare a law unconstitutional, wasn't handed down until 1803, so the constitutionality of the Sedition Act was never attacked directly in court. However, in landmark 1964 libel case New York Times v. Sullivan, they make it pretty clear that the constitutionality of the Sedition Act was deeply suspect even in 1798, and the Act would never survive a modern constitutional challenge.

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