The United States of America Flag Code: An Overview November 2, 2016 11:54

When Betsy Ross stitched together the first United States flag, she couldn’t have imaged the thickness and technical nature of the flag code that would ensue. To say it’s comprehensive is akin to saying that Donald Trump likes himself just a little. The code is massive. 

The U.S. flag code, adopted in June of 1923, governs the official care and display of the flag of the United States of America, known colloquially as Old Glory. Flag-waving, red-blooded Americans follow the code to the letter when it comes to displaying their flags, but the code is largely unenforced at the federal level following a Supreme Court ruling in 1989 that made enforcement of parts of the code unconstitutional. Still, states each have their own flag codes, so those who deface or mutilate it can still face prosecution on the state level.

The flag code itself is an extensive compilation of regulations and codes; it has 50 sections, each of which are divided in subsections, and some subsections are even further divided into chapters and paragraphs. To put it mildly, it’s a lot to take in. Let’s focus instead on some of the most important parts of the flag code.

When to Display the U.S. Flag

Although it is perfectly acceptable under the U.S. Flag Code to display the flag every day of the year, displaying it on federal holidays, state holidays, and the birthday of your particular state is highly encouraged.

The flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset, although some people choose to leave their flags up 24/7, and that’s not prohibited, as long as the flag is illuminated during the overnight hours.

How To Display the U.S. Flag

If you are displaying the flag from your home, then a staff should be used. The staff should project horizontally from the front of the home, balcony, or window sill, with the flag’s union at the peak.

For displays without a staff, then the union should be uppermost in the display, to the left of the observer. On Memorial Day, the flag should be lowered to half staff from sunrise until 12 p.m.

Respecting the Flag

The flag should never touch the ground, and it should never be worn; no, using the flag as a toga at last year’s Fourth of July bash won’t land you in jail, but it does put you in defiance of the U.S. Flag Code.

It is also a sign of disrespect to fly any U.S. flag other than a weatherproof flag during times of inclement weather. To store the flag, it should be folded with into a triangle with the field of blue stars facing the front and the triangle pointing upwards.

Disposing of a U.S. Flag

When a flag becomes tattered, it must be destroyed with dignity; burning is the preferred method of disposal. Most Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boys Scouts clubs, and American Legions host flag-burning ceremonies for the community to dispose of flags that are no longer fitting for presentation and display.

There you have it - a rundown of some of the most essential rules in the U.S. Flag Code. Basically, the code calls for us to respect the flag, since it is an endearing symbol of the freedom and liberty that so many men and women have sacrificed to maintain since the flag’s inception in 1777. Taking pride in the flag is a great way to show your love of this great country of ours.

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