Fallen Soldier's Dad Burns NJ Flag in Whitney Protest
John Burri not happy with half-staff Whitney Houston tribute
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2012 8:22 AM CST
A flag at half staff in honor of Whitney Houston outside 'Whigham Funeral Home' where a private viewing for Whitney Houston was held on February 17, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – When John Burri heard that New Jersey ordered flags flown at half-staff to honor Whitney Houston, he drove to his local Flags Unlimited store, bought a New Jersey state flag, brought it to his Michigan home, and burned it on his outdoor grill. "It was $12.95 and it was the best money I ever spent," says the father of Army Spc. Eric Burri, who was killed in Iraq in 2005. Michigan's governor ordered that state's flags flown at half-staff for one day to honor Burri's son, and it's an honor that should be reserved for those who died in the line of service, Burri says.

For New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to order the same honor for Houston is "a slap in the face," Burri tells the Detroit News. "It cheapens the meaning of lowering that flag. They're watering down the meaning of a hero." His action was a legal one, a law professor notes, since the Supreme Court has ruled that the burning of a US flag is constitutionally protected speech—and those decisions would also apply to state flags. Christie was criticized by others for his decision, but he defended it last week, calling Houston a "cultural icon" of whom New Jersey residents are proud.