Madelyn Christina.jpg _lowres

Madelyn Christina

A Harahan woman has been arrested and accused of desecrating a flag after allegedly stealing and tearing a Confederate battle flag on the Fourth of July.

Harahan police said Madelyn Christina, 18, was caught on surveillance video stealing the rebel banner from a flag pole in front of a neighbor’s residence on Colonial Club Drive.

Responding police interviewed Christina, who “freely admitted stealing the flag because it was racist,” according to a department news release.

Police said that when they tried to retrieve the Stars and Bars from Christina’s vehicle, they found marijuana, cocaine and alprazolam .

The flag was torn because Christina had ripped it off the pole, according to Harahan Police Chief Tim Walker.

Christina was booked on three counts of drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft under $100 and flag desecration, police said.

Five states have laws making desecration of the Confederate flag illegal, according to the National Constitution Center. Louisiana is one of them, making desecration of the Confederate banner just as forbidden as that of the United States flag.

The law was in the news briefly last fall when some LSU students threatened to burn a Confederate flag as part of a protest against the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

While the rebel flag desecration statute remains on state books, its constitutionality is in question.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a controversial 1989 decision that flag burning was symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment.

“Charging anybody with flag desecration is a violation of their First Amendment rights,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. “The whole thing is unconstitutional, and the idea that we include the Confederate States of America in it now is really inappropriate, because obviously the flag of the Confederate States of America has no legal standing.”

Flag desecration is not the only unconstitutional statute on state books, Esman said.She pointed to the February 2015 arrest of two men in Baton Rouge on counts of sodomy, a law that the Supreme Court ruled unenforceable in 2003.

“It’s unfortunate that our law enforcement officers aren’t trained to know which ones they can’t enforce,” Esman said.

She said if the underlying allegations in the case against Christina are accurate, the other counts she faces, such as theft, could be appropriate.

Walker, the police chief, declined to comment on the statute’s constitutionality, calling it a question for the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office.

Christina remained in custody at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna on Tuesday, according to court records.

A man answering the door at her residence declined to comment on the case.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432