The US Flag: Etiquette and Display, Part 2
By Jim Massey, with excerpts from The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions from the Congressional Research Service
The symbolism attached to our flag extends beyond that of simply identifying a territory or possession of the United States. We also use the flag as a means of paying respect to individuals who have formally served this nation in varying capacities, including, but not limited to, fallen members of the US Armed Forces.
In accordance with the Federal Flag Code (4 U.S.C. §§ 4-10 and 36 U.S.C. § 301), the US flag should be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, “by order of the President, … upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a state, territory, or possession,” as well as members of the US Armed Forces. State Governors have similar authority to order both state and US flags to be flown at half-staff.
“The flag shall be flown at half-staff thirty days from the death of the President or a former President; ten days from the day of death of the Vice-President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.” The US Code provides additional details and lengths of time for other current and former national and state officials. Flags used to cover caskets should be placed so the blue field and stars are at the head and over the left shoulder of the individual being buried.
Perhaps the greatest controversy revolves around what is considered disrespect of our flag. Although what is specified under 4 USC § 8 details what legally constitutes disrespect, it seems that more modern customs and traditions circumvent the law. What is disrespectful, by law: use as an article of clothing or costume, allowing it to touch the ground/floor, displaying it in such a way that it may become soiled or otherwise unserviceable, or printing/using for any kind of advertising purposes or temporary use after which it would be discarded. Additionally, “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” This raises the concern for many regarding burning or otherwise defacing it. In spite of the law prohibiting such treatment of the flag, the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Texas v. Jonson (1989), found that “Johnson’s burning of the flag was expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” However, this does nothing to alleviate the fact most Americans are appalled at the very notion of such an act being used as a mode of expression, one that violates the patriotic core of our nation.
Worn, torn, faded and badly soiled flags will be collected for proper disposal in honor of the upcoming Cooking4Courage event hosted by Texans United For Freedom. The flag retirement ceremony will take place at Unity Park in Magnolia on Thursday, Nov. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Flags may be dropped off at City Hall, 18111 Buddy Riley Blvd. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on normal business days at the Utility and Permit Office, far left door of the building.
TUFF is also hosting the Cooking4Courage BBQ cookoff November 13-14 at Unity Park. Please visit our website at www.tufffoundation.org for more information.