The U.S. Flag Code; It's Purpose.
The U.S. Flag Code was devised to be a guideline to spell
out the proper display and care in the respectful handling
of the American Flag. The Federal Code does not contain penalties although some
States have codes that do. U.S. Supreme Court decisions concerning flag
desecration has ruled that the burning of a flag is a Constitutional right of
free speech. Though legal enforcement is unlikely, many have taken upon themselves to
enforce the rules, taking upon themselves possible prosecution. Various
provisions have been changed over the years due to reasons of being outdated or
to add other considerations. In January 2008 President George W. Bush
signed a law that revised the code to allow American Military Veterans to use
the military salute whether in uniform or not. That was a change to further
honor those who serve to protect America.
2008 - CRS Report to Congress: The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating
to Display and Associated Questions.
The U.S. Code Chapter 1 - The Flag (01-08-2008)
US Department of Veterans Affairs -
Guidelines for Display of the Flag
of the U.S. Flag
The American Flag should always be treated with the
utmost respect. The American flag is never
"dipped", not even in showing respect to any person or thing.
Other flags of the military or other Governmental levels may dip to show honor.
Though other nation's flag may dip, the American Flag does not.
The American Flag should not be altered in anyway for a demonstration of support
or opposition. The burning, soiling, marking, slashing or other
intentional misuse constitutes disrespect, not only for the American flag but
for America, her founding fathers, veterans, and the American citizenry.
The flag should always be allowed to flow
freely when being carried unless properly folded when carried to its storage
location. It should never be allowed to touch the ground or other objects
as it freely flies. When
raising the flag it should be done briskly and then cautiously when lowering.
The union of the American Flag should always
be displayed at top except as a distress call in an extreme emergency where life
or property is at immediate risk. When ordered to be placed at
half-staff the union is still at the top but the flag
is positioned lower on the pole.
The U.S. flag should be raised at sunrise and
lowered at sunset. The American flag is always to be raised first and
lowered last. Display at night of the American Banner
should be illuminated by a light aimed to shine upon the flag.
The flag should be displayed daily, on or near
the main administration building of every public institution. The flag
should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse. The
flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days. There
should be a flag in all meeting rooms of all Government Offices. Your local
Library should have a flag in their meeting room but often, due to budget
constraints, neglect to comply.
No other flag or pennant shall be flown above
the U.S. Flag. If on the same level no other flag or pennant shall be
placed to the right of the American Flag.
The American Flag should not be used for
advertising purposes, nor should any advertising signs be placed on the Flag's lanyard
or pole. Nothing is to be attached to the flag for any reason.
See more on Clothing/Drapery. The flag
is not to be used as a covering of ceiling, walls, windows or other, simply for
utility or decorative purposes.
At a ceremony for unveiling a statue or
monument the U.S. Flag should hold a prominent position but placed in accordance
with the established rules; it is never to be used as the covering of the art or
The American Flag should not be carried flat
or horizontally but allowed to freely fly. Only when carried for storage having
been properly folded may the flag be carried
Also see Flag Desecration,
Up-Side-Down & Maintenance
The flag should be saluted when reciting the
"Pledge of Allegiance", when the flag is presented and placed, when
the flag is retired, as
the U.S. flag passes in a parade or procession, and when the National Anthem is played.
parade the flag should be saluted when it has approached to within six paces and
the salute relieved when the banner is six paces beyond. The flag
should be saluted as the float passes by.
At the playing of a rendition of the
National Anthem the flag is to be saluted upon the first note and held until the
last note has been played. All should stand during the performance of the
National Anthem. All should face the American Flag when one is
present. When one is not present all should face the source of the music
and salute as though a flag was present.
All in attendance of the presenting or the
retirement of a
flag or as a flag is paraded past should rise to stand while saluting the flag.
Civilians salute the flag by placing their
right hand with palm open and fingers together over their heart.
Veterans may salute the flag with the military salute whether in uniform or not
or may opt for the civilian, hand over heart, salute.
When dressed in civilian attire men wearing hats
should remove them and hold
the hat over their left shoulder with their hand over their heart. Women do not remove
their headwear but salute with their right hand over their heart.
When the hat is a part of a military uniform
or that of patriotic organizations it is not removed
but the appropriate military salute is made. The Boy Scouts of America and other such
Patriotic organizations may have their own salute and do not remove the hat of
of the U.S. Flag
The U.S. Flag should never be attached, displayed or
stored in a manner that would easily cause it to be torn, soiled or otherwise
damaged. It should not be allowed to contact with other objects but
allowed to fly free. The American Flag should be lowered during inclement
weather to avoid undue wear; there are some flags designed to withstand such
weather. Should the
flag become soiled or otherwise touch American soil simply launder as you would
for any prized outfit made of the same material. Tears and frays should be
mended or the flag disposed of as described below.
Should a U.S. flag become tattered from use
or become badly soiled it should be disposed of in a dignified manner. The
preference is by burning in a ceremonious
manner. Your local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) chapter is able and
willing to help in this matter.
Do not allow the flag to touch foreign
soil. Should contact with foreign soil occur the flag should be disposed
of in the same manner as that of a worn out ensign.
Also see Respecting,
Flag Desecration &
First I must make the clarification between the "half-mast"
and the "half-staff." I until 2007 had referred to the lowering of the
flag as "half-mast" as do many American citizens. I was informed by J. Kleinsmith,
SFC, U.S. Army Retired of my error. When I stopped to think, "mast," of
course a mast is on a ship! Yet it has become popular among our society to call
the lowering, "half-mast." I've even heard the media use the wrong term.
"Half-staff" is on the land when the flag is flown on a "staff." "Half-mast" is
of course when the flag is flown upon a mast of a ship. The rules to
lowering the flag apply to both staff and mast.
Half-staff is a sign of mourning. When a
person of national prominence passes-away the flag is placed at half-staff. The
Flag is raised to the top, held for a moment, then lowered to the half-staff
position. When lowering the Flag from the half-staff position raise it to
the top, hold for a moment, then lower in accordance to proper procedure.
The half-staff position is to be rendered on each Memorial Day and is held only until noon, then raised to the
top of the staff until sunset.
It is preferred that other ensigns on the same staff are removed when flying
the American flag at half-staff. If other flags are to be flown they
likewise are lowed and positioned below the American Flag, that flies in the
middle of the staff. When other flags, State, City, localities, pennants, or
flag logos, are also lowered with the American Flag first raised for a moment
then lowered to half-staff. Flags of another nation flown on adjacent
staffs are not lowered unless that nation is also lowering their flag in respect
for the same reason (the only time the American Flag is to fly lower than other
flags that may accompany it, but never on the same staff.)
Flags that are affixed to the staff or flown as kit that is mounted to the side
of a house or other building, a "black ribbon" is to be placed hanging from the
top of the flag. The ribbon is to the same width as a stripe on the flag and the
same length as the flag. The "black ribbon" in leiu of lowering has been
established by the American Legion.
Telescoping flag poles are becoming more and more popular. The placement of the
American Flag for 'half-staff' on a telescoping pole is the second set of rings
with the top set left empty. I have used the second set of rings with the
top ring of the second set tied with a piece of twine to the top ring attachment
with enough length to allow the flag to wave at the middle of the pole.
When a President or past President passes away
the flag is to be set at half-staff for a period of one month from the date of
his passing. The term is ten days from the death of a Vice President, a
retired or current Chief Justice of the United States or the Speaker of the
House. In the passing of an Associate Justice
of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a
former Vice President, or: the Governor of a State, territory or possession the
Flag is flown at half-staff from the date of passing until the day of
internment. In the event of the passing of a Member of Congress the flag
is flown half-staff the day of passing and the day after.
The passing of other dignitaries when ordered by the
President of the United States; a Governor of a state or territory; or the
District of Columbia Mayor, may require
the flag to be placed at half-staff as specified for no more than one week from the date of
The Governor of a state or U.S. Territory may declare a
Half-staff position of the National Flag within his state for the passing of a
dignitary of that State. Governors of States or Territories may declare the
American Flag be lowered to half-staff for military personnel from their state
that has been killed in the line of duty. Cities and Counties do not have
the authority to order a half-staff positioning of the flag except for the Mayor
of the District of Columbia.
The American Flag should not be placed at
half-staff at the whim of any private person, organization or corporation. Personal,
Corporate, or other flags may be placed at half-staff showing respect, while the U.S. Flag remains flying
high at the top of the pole or staff.
The American Flag is not lowered to half-staff for foreign subjects unless
specifically ordered by the President of the United States. One such
example is when President G. W. Bush ordered the half-staff for the passing of
the pope in 2005. The pope holds much esteem to a substantial segment of
the American citizenry.
Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles,
Buildings, Outside, Parades
Folding the Flag
When lowering the flag it should be handled by
hands and not allowed to touch the ground or other object. It is then to
be folded in the triangular formation prior to storage.
Not letting the Flag drape low, touching the
ground, hold our nation's flag out flat. Fold first lengthwise in half bringing
the closest corners together. Then fold in half again. Beginning at the opposite
end from the union, turn the corner over to begin a triangle. Fold again
following the new edge turned over. Following suit with a turn forward
followed by a turn to the left or right. Once to the end the remainder is
then tucked in to form a triangle; a reminder of those who wore the cocked hat
in an offence against tyranny; victorious in gaining the liberty we enjoy today.
With other flags
When flown with another nation's flag or flags of other
nations each are to be on separate staffs. Each including the American Flag are
to be flown at the same height. The American Flag is to be on its own right.
International law prevents the placement of one nation's flag over another in
times of peace.
On a pole or staff when other flags are flown, the
American Flag is always flown at the top. In a panoply, an arrangement of
flag staffs in
the same mount, the U.S. ensign should be at the center and highest point.
When displaying with crossed staffs the U.S. Flag should be to its own right and
its staff in front of the other. When a number of other, than foreign
nation, flags are flown from staffs the U.S. Flag is to be flown higher and in
the center of the flags.
two or more U.S. flags are flown
When two or more U.S. Flags are displayed
together as across from one another, on crossed staffs, on multiple staffs or
poles, or displayed in windows, there should be no other flag flown with them. The most prominent of the American
flags should comply with the other established rules. When flown with any other
ensigns on same or separate mounts, only one U.S. flag is to be displayed and then in accordance with
proper flag etiquette.
Prior Versions of
the American Flag
American Flags that had been used with fewer than 50 stars are still
considered "living flags" which are to be given due respect and may be displayed,
when done so
in compliance with established flag etiquette.
In 1777, Congress set the design of the American
Flag ("the Flag of the United
States be 13 stripes alternate red and white," and that "the Union be 13 stars
white in a blue field representing a new constellation.") Before that
various designs had been used. Use only those that you know to have existed. In
1818, Congress designated one additional star
when a state is added to the union. 7 stars were added in 1818 for seven new
states, so the flag went from 13 stars to 20 stars. There were no 14, 15, 16,
17, 18, or 19 star flags so know your history of the
flag and do not use an improper number of stars. There were other times
where more than one state entered the union in the same year allowing for a skip
of a particular number of stars.
National / Other Holidays
Some will choose to only display the flag on
actual holidays. The National Holidays or observances that the flag should be displayed
are New Year's Day, Inauguration Day, Lincoln and Washington's Birthdays,
President's Day, Easter Sunday, Mother's Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day,
Flag Day, Father's Day, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Navy Day,
Veteran's Day, also at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The President of the
United States may proclaim that the flag be displayed on other days that are
proclaimed for the recognition of an honor. In each State the American
Flag should be flown on the State's date of admission and on that State's
Gold Fringe is often found on flags used in ceremonies
indoors or outside. Gold Fringe is used at ones own preference. The Gold
Fringe does not designate martial law or the federal government as conspiracy
theory would have you believe.
flags on flagpoles
The United States flag should always be
flown above any other flags that are flown with it on the same pole. Displaying
of the flag when there are two or more
poles, place our Ensign on the pole to the flag's right. This would be your left
as you view the poles. A flag pole on land is called a staff on a ship it
is called a mast. The American Flag should not be able to touch the ground, or
other objects to avoid disrespect and/or damage to the flag.
Also see Half-Staff / Mast,
Buildings, Outside, Parades
On or In Buildings
When draping the flag vertically or
horizontally against the side of a building or in a window the union is to be
placed to the left to those viewing the ensign. When raising a flag by rope on a
vertical or staff angled away from a building the union is to be raised first.
When placed behind the speaker the U.S. flag
should be placed flat and above. The bottom of the ensign should not touch other objects
or the floor. When on staffs that are placed behind or
beside the speaker The American flag should be positioned to the speaker's
In Halls or other meeting rooms when on
staffs the U.S. flag should be placed to its right, which is to the left as the
audience would view it.
In the lobby of a building, hanging flat from the ceiling the U.S. flag
should be across from the main entrance with the Union to the left of those
entering through the door. When the flag is viewed from front and back
from opposite entrances the Union is to be to the North or East depending upon
the layout of the building. At the end of a hallway the flag should be
displayed with the union to the left of those entering the hall.
For rallies or other gatherings outdoors
when the flag is placed behind the speaker it should be placed flat. Its
bottom should not touch other objects or the ground. Other placements should follow the various
other rules spelled out on this page. When draping the American flag across a
street it should be hung vertically with the union to the east on north-south
streets and to the North on east-west streets.
Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles,
Parades & Automobiles
When marching in a procession or parade the
flag should be on the right. If there are many other flags the American
flag should be positioned center front.
When carrying the flag hold it slightly angled
from your body. It can also be carried with one hand resting it on your
right shoulder. A design of a flag carrier may require a slightly
different placement but the flag should always be angled out away from the body.
On a float in a parade the flag should only be
displayed on a staff or flat against the wall with the union to the left as
viewers view the flag.
Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles,
On automobiles the U.S. flag should be flown
on the antenna, a flagstaff firmly secured to the chassis, attached to the right fender or
attached to the right window. Inside the vehicle at the front windshield
it should be placed in the center on the dash, displayed on a short staff. In the rear window the flag should
again be on a staff and be placed
to its right as viewed from the rear of the vehicle. Nothing including our national ensign should
be placed so that it impedes the visibility of the driver in his driving safely
The Flag is not to be draped over any
automobile, train, boat or other vehicle.
Flag sticker placement should be on the
rear of the automobile to the lower left as facing the vehicle, preferable on
the bumper. Avoid having any other stickers (bumper stickers) near or
above the Flag sticker. If other flag stickers are to be displayed with the
American Flag sticker, all are to be lower than the American Flag. When more
than two stickers must accompany the American Standard the American Flag may be
placed in the Middle of the bumper in a higher position and all other stickers
placed lower and distributed on both sides of our nation's emblem.
Also see Half-Staff / Mast, Flagpoles,
flying of our Ensign
U.S. yachts when at anchor should fly the US
Ensign from the stern staff, if so equipped, only while occupied.
Gaff-rigged sailboats should fly the ensign
from the peak of the aftermost gaff.
The Ensign is flown from the stern staff of
powerboats underway on inland waters.
Sailboats with the modern high-aspect-ratio
rig should fly the U.S. Ensign on the stern staff while under way; under power
alone, or at anchor or made fast and not while the ship is racing.
On a sports fisherman, the ensign should be
flown form a halyard rigged just behind the tuna tower, when a stern staff would
interfere with the action.
When the flag is placed over a casket the
union is to be placed so that it is at the head and over the left shoulder of
the deceased. The flag is not to touch the ground or any other object and
is not to be lowered into the grave. It is to be removed ceremoniously and
folded in accordance with proper flag folding procedures.
The American Flag is not to be draped directly upon the remains of a deceased.
The transporting of remains via stretcher, gurney or other mode of transport,
when not within a casket, usually does not require display of the American
flag. When such is desired to display respect, the American Flag should be
carried by staff ahead of the deceased. When more than one remains are to be
transported, the American Flag may be carried by staff at the beginning of the
procession. An American Flag may be carried by staff prior to each and every
remains within the procession. In all cases all remains, being transported
together, shall be shown equal respect.
The POW/MIA flag when flown on one pole is to be directly
below the National Ensign and above any state flag.
When two poles are to be used the POW/MIA flag is to be flown on the same pole
as, and under, the National Ensign. State flags are to be on the pole to the
left of the National flag. (Your right when facing the American flag.)
If using three poles the American Flag is to be in the place of prominence (Its
own right), then immediately to the left of the U.S. Flag the POW/MIA flag is to
be flown and the state flag to the left of the POW/MIA flag.
Veterans have served in various capacities to protect the
liberty and freedoms that Americans enjoy today. This section is to
direct you to those sections that address our Veterans. Of course, much more pertain as
well. In 2008 under President George W Bush it became proper for a Veteran
to render a military salute whether in uniform or not.
POW/MIA flag -
Salute - Hats
Those who are not United States citizens shall not be
compelled or required to salute the American Flag. Nor should they be compelled
or required to recite or publicly read the Pledge of Allegiance. Non-citizens should however,
stand at attention in respect during ceremonies when the colors are presented,
raised, lowered or otherwise honored by the pledge or during the playing of the
U.S. National Anthem. Display of foreign flags must comply with the U.S. Flag
Code when on U.S. soil, meaning the U.S. Flag should be present and in the
prominent position as spelled out in the U.S. Flag Code.
The American flag should not be taken and
made into or used as clothing or drapery. The flag should not be attached to clothing except as a patch to be worn on the
shoulder (in accordance to flag etiquette) nor should anything be attached to the flag.
The American flag should not be used as a scarf, shawl, poncho, or other
clothing except in case of emergency, for warmth, or administering first aid,
when nothing else is available.
Also See Image Use
The American flag should not be
embroidered upon; printed upon; or otherwise have placed upon it, any items or
any reason. Some have wished to embroider a name and date onto the flag to
honor an individual, however that would constitute disrespect of the American
flag. One may place a name date or other respectful notations onto the canvas
trim where the grommets are attached. Where the mounting edge of the flag is a
continuation of the flag design it is improper to write, embroider or otherwise
attach anything onto it (Such would include the branding of the manufacturer of
that particular flag).
The image of the flag should not be embroidered, printed or
otherwise placed upon items that are intended to be discarded after temporary
use. (These days the previous is often violated, such as when the flag is
printed on napkins. Such use is temporary and rarely allows for the respectful
discard of the flag's image.)
The image of the flag should not be used for advertising or business logos. The
flag is the primary 'logo' of the United States of America representing our
liberty and those who fought and/or sacrificed that we be free.
stitching, screen printing, or other media that places a design that includes
the "image" of a flag does not constitute the attachment of a flag onto clothing.
except in the District of Columbia.
The "image" of the American flag when used as a part of a design shall be done
so in a respectful manner, and may have other, respectful images placed ahead
leaving the flag behind the other image. You cannot take an American Flag and
attach anything onto it but may include the image into your design (not for
advertising) if done respectfully. In the District of Columbia the image of the
American Flag shall not be used in any fashion in any way on any clothing or
The U.S. Flag should not be used as a cover
for desk, podium, or any object except for the casket of one who has served our
country. The American Flag is not to be draped directly upon the remains
of a deceased (see casket). A flag is not to be used as a decoration; bunting; or any other
purpose other than specified by established flag etiquette. There are
other designs of Red, White and Blue for the purpose of decoration or covering. When using bunting the Blue stripe should be
at the top. You might want to follow that last requirement when placing
ribbon and other such decorator items that have red, white and blue stripes
running horizontally. When red, white, and blue stripe run vertically the blue
should be on the left as it is being viewed.
The American flag should not be used as a
means to carry or otherwise wrap other objects.
Patches and Pins
U.S. Flag patches are to be sewn on the shoulder
of the garment. When on the right shoulder the patch should show the
reverse side of the flag. As one moves forward the flag trails as it would when
carrying the flag on a staff.
U.S. Flag pins must be worn on the left lapel or area where a left lapel would
be so that it is positioned near the heart.
Accessories such as bags to hold folding chairs or other
items that are decorated with the colors or closely resemble the American flag should be
treated with respect, keeping off the ground or kept stored out of site so as to
minimize the appearance of a mishandled flag.
The U.S. flag should never be flown upside
down except to show distress in times of danger to life, limb or property. The
flag should not be flown upside down as a means of protest for or against
any cause even though the premise might be construed as being a 'danger'.
Also see Respecting,
Flag Desecration & Maintenance
Desecrating the flag is any willful or wanton destruction
or defacing of the American Flag. Desecration of the American Flag is often
unenforceable. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld flag burning within the
rights of the First Amendment under Free Speech. Regardless of ones rights
it is disrespectful, to the U.S. Flag, America, law-abiding American citizens
and to the service of American Veterans, to desecrate the flag in any manner.
When the offender provides his own flag for the purpose of protest he or she
must comply with all Federal, State, and local law concerning safety of persons
and property. An offender cannot steal a flag without being subjected to
arrest for theft. An offender cannot burn the flag where it may pose a danger to
himself or others. The offender cannot use the flag and or staff as a weapon
against another. An offender may not deface the flag of another with the prior
expressed consent or be subject to vandalism charges and restitution. Usually
local permits are required for the public burning of any item. The burning of
synthetic materials may be hazardous to those in the immediate area. Though the
offender cannot be prosecuted for the act there may be other laws that are
broken during the act of the flag desecration, that may be enforced.
Also see Respecting,
Up-Side-Down & Maintenance
Flag Flown Over The U. S. Capitol
At the United States of America Capitol there is a Flag
pole, maybe more, where a flag is removed from its packaging raised then lowered
and again packaged. Another is flown then another. Flag up, flag down, flag up,
flag down sun up to sun down. Those flags are then made available to the
To obtain an American Flag that was flown over the Capitol simply write your
Senator or Congressman with your request. Each Senator and Congressman
(Directory Links Below) will have a form on their website. The link is usually
under "Services." The flag will be accompanied with a certificate from the
Architect Of The Capitol authenticating the date flown. There is a reasonably
small fee for the flag. If you order more than 4 week prior you may request it
be flown on a specific day. Keep in mind the more popular days such as
Independence Day may book up fast. It may take one to two months to receive your
flag. It seems that flags flown over the White House are not available.
United States Senators
House of Representatives
More than 100,000 requests for a "Capitol Flag" are made
each year. It was in 1937 that the Capitol Flag Program began. A congressman was
the first to request a flag that had been flown over the Capitol that led to
other requests that then prompted the creation of the program.
information written and/or compiled is copyrighted
2004, 2005, 2010, 2012 Roger W Hancock, www.PoetPatriot.com,
all rights reserved.