Many patriotic Americans respect the US flag, so they take the time to learn about the flag code. Here are some interesting and important things you may not know about the US Flag Code.
- When were these rules established?
It may come as a surprise how late in American history the flag code was established. The National Flag Code, set of advisory guidelines for displaying the American flag, was set in this the 1923 Flag Day by an American Legion-led group of organizations. A large part of what we now refer to as the United States Flag Code came about when the rules become legislation during World War II.
Even though the code talks about many highly specific situations, one basic principle governs all the rules: we should treat the flag respectfully because it’s among the most conspicuous and powerful symbols of the country.
- Are there any exceptions to the rule of always displaying the American flag in a position of prominence over other flags while in the US?
The main exception to this rule is Section 7, which says that the United Nations flag can take the position of prominence or honor at the New York UN headquarters. Another exception is naval chaplain church services out at sea. In such cases, the church’s flag can take prominence over the American flag.
- Is it true that, if a flag touches the ground, you have to retire and burn it?
No. It’s a myth. The flag code is more pragmatic about this situation. Sure, the code says, “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.” However, it doesn’t say anywhere that you should burn the flag if it slips and falls.
The code does, however, states that “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” So you don’t need to burn the flag unless it hits the ground so hard that it’s ruined and can no longer be displayed.
- Is there a penalty for violating the flag code?
The flag code is not enforceable, meaning that there are generally no penalties for violating these rules. Technically, the flag code is federal law because it’s part of States Code. The code is essentially a list of advisory rules for Americans who are interested in knowing how to treat their flag with respect.
If that describes you and you take your flag seriously, consider getting a high-quality telescoping flagpole made from durable materials that eliminate the need to paint over rust.
Previously, individual states had prohibitions and set penalties for those found desecrating the flag. However, the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson deemed these laws invalid and infringements on free speech. In response, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act, which criminalized flag desecration, but the Supreme Court struck it down in 1990.
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