The US Flag: Etiquette and Display, Part 1
By Jim Massey, with excerpts from The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions from the Congressional Research Service
Much controversy exists today regarding the proper handling, use, and display of the US flag, in no small part, fueled by what is seen as a disrespectful use of our national ensign. This leads to countless misconceptions regarding what is or is not legal. The next two articles are dedicated to address what our laws actually specify on this issue.
In addition to addressing proper conduct during the playing of our national anthem, the Federal Flag Code (4 U.S.C. §§ 4-10 and 36 U.S.C. § 301) provides a uniform set of guidelines for the display and respect shown to our flag. As such, it is important to note that the law is “for the use of such civilian groups or organizations as may not be required to conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments” of the federal government. There are no penalties provided for violations of these provisions, merely leaving them as guidelines to be followed—or completely ignored, solely at the discretion of civilians and civilian groups.
With that understanding, certain elements of the US Code have become more tradition than enforced law. The following is paraphrased from Title 4 of the US Code:
1. The flag is flown from sunrise to sunset, but may be flown 24 hours a day if properly illuminated. In inclement weather, unless a special “inclement weather” flag is used, it is not to be flown.
2. The flag should be flown on all national and state holidays, as well as at or near polling places on election days and at all schools during school days.
3. When on display with multiple other flags, the US flag is flown to the right of the others and elevated above them. The exception to this is if flags of multiple nations are flown: in this situation, all national flags are displayed at equal height.
4. The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. Display on such vehicles should be on a staff mounted to the vehicle for that purpose.
These items comprise only a part of the US Code, but they highlight the more common issues relating to the display of our flag. Two key issues still needing to be addressed include the flying of the flag at “half –staff,” along with proper respect of the flag.
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.