Flag Etiquette

[Via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s the flag, you know what the flag looks like! [Via Wikimedia Commons]

Flag Day is coming up on Sunday and so I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on American flag etiquette!

A few fun facts to begin:

  • The US Flag Code was adopted in 1923 and prior to that there were no official rules governing the US Flag. The different branches of the armed forces all had their own regulations, so the flag code was adopted to make one universal code.
  • It is absolutely not illegal to burn or otherwise desecrate a US Flag in the United States. The Supreme Court decided in 1990 that is it unconstitutional to violate people’s right to free speech (flag desecration counts as free speech) by having laws against flag desecration. (I see people who are unaware of this all the time and it is irksome to say the least.)
  • The Pledge of Allegiance was first written in 1892 and the “under God” bit was not added until 1954 as a way to distant the US from atheistic Communist countries!!  (So maybe we should not make a big deal about people not wanting to say it?) (The pledge was also originally said while doing the Bellamy salute. However, the Bellamy salute looks a lot like the Nazi salute, so it was discontinued during WWII and replaced with the hand over the heart salute.) (Court decisions have decreed that you cannot force anyone to say the Pledge of Allegiance and you cannot also not require anyone to stand during it.)

To paraphrase the flag code:

  • The flag should never dip to show respect to a person or a thing.
  • The flag should never touch the ground or water under it
  • The flag is only flown upside down to indicate distress
  • The flag should never be draped on anything as decoration. To decorate patriotically, bunting should be used with the blue on top, white in the middle, and red on the bottom.
  • The flag should not be used for advertising. It should also not be embroidered on anything or printed on anything that is meant to be casually discarded.
  • The flag should always be fastened securely so there is no risk of it being torn or damaged.
  • There should never be anything written or drawn on the flag.
  • No signs or advertisements should be posted on a flagpole.
  • No part of a flag should be used as a costume or uniform. The armed forces may have a flag patch on their uniforms. Flag lapel pins should be worn on the left, over the heart.
  • When a flag is too worn or damaged to be a fitting symbol, it should be burned ceremoniously.
  • When saluting the flag, whether at a flag raising/lowering ceremony, the National Anthem, or the Pledge of Allegiance, all people should face toward the flag and put their right hand over their heart. Civilians should remove their hats and put the hat over their heart. Military persons in uniform do not remove their hats and salute instead of putting their hands over their hearts. (If you are not a US citizen, you don’t have to do this, but you should stand to be polite.)
  • When displaying the flag from a flagpole, the flag should always go fully to the top unless being displayed at half-mast.
  • The flag is displayed at half-mast by presidential or gubernatorial order. To set the flag at half mast, it is first hoisted to full mast and then lowered. The lower the flag, it is again hoisted to full mast before being lowered fully.
  • The flag is to be hoisted briskly and lowered slowly. It should only be up from sunrise to sunset, if it is to be displayed at night, it should be illuminated.
  • When flown with other flags, the US flag should always be the biggest and fly the highest. It is always the first raised and the last lowered.
  • When the flag covers a casket, the union (the blue section with the stars) should cover the head and left shoulder. The flag is removed before it is lowered into the grave.

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