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How To Display An American Flag

Can an American flag that has covered a casket be displayed after its original use?

There are no provisions in the Flag Code to suggest otherwise. It would be a fitting tribute to the memory of the deceased veteran and his or her service to a grateful nation if the casket flag is displayed.

Can the American flag be displayed in inclement weather?

The American flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, with the exception of all-weather (nylon or other non-absorbent material) flags. However, most American flags are made of all-weather materials.

What is the significance of displaying the American flag at half-staff?

This gesture is a sign to indicate the nation mourns the death of an individual(s), such as death of the president or former president, vice president, Supreme Court justice, member of Congress, secretary of an executive or military department, etc.  Only the President or a state governor may order that the American flag be displayed at half-staff. The honor and reverence accorded this solemn act can be eroded by those individuals and agencies that display the American flag at half-staff on inappropriate occasions without proper authority to do so.

When the American flag is not flown from a staff, how should it be displayed?

The American flag should be displayed vertically, whether indoors or outdoors, and suspended so that its folds fall free as though the flag were staffed. The stripes may be displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, and the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right (that is, to the observer’s left). When displayed in a window of a home or a place of business, the American flag should be displayed in the same way (that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street).

How are unserviceable American flags destroyed?

The Flag Code suggests that when an American flag has served its useful purpose, “it should be destroyed, preferably by burning.” For individual citizens, this should be done discreetly so the act of destruction is not perceived as a protest or desecration. Many American Legion posts conduct disposal ceremonies of unserviceable American flags on Flag Day (June 14). Such ceremonies are particularly dignified and solemn occasions for the retirement of unserviceable American flags.

Can the American flag be washed or dry-cleaned?

Yes. No provisions of the Flag Code prohibit such care. The decision to wash or dry-clean depends on the material.

Are you required to destroy an American flag if it touches the ground?

The Flag Code states that an American flag should not touch anything beneath it, including the ground. This is stated to indicate that care should be exercised in the handling of an American flag, to protect it from becoming soiled or damaged. You are not required to destroy the American flag when this happens. As long as the flag remains suitable for display, even if washing or dry-cleaning is required, you may continue to display it as a symbol of our great country.

What is the proper method for folding an American flag?

The Flag Code does not require any specific method. However, a tradition of folding has developed over time that produces a triangular-shaped form, like that of a three-corner hat with only the blue union showing.

May a person, other than a veteran, have his or her casket draped with an American flag?

Yes. Although this honor is usually reserved for veterans or highly regarded state and national figures, the Flag Code does not prohibit this use.

What is the significance of the gold fringe seen on some American flags?

Records indicate that fringe was first used on the American flag as early as 1835. It was not until 1895 it was officially added to the national flag for all Army regiments. For civilian use, fringe is not required as an integral part of the American flag, nor can its use be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute. Fringe is used as an honorable enrichment only.

What is meant by the flag’s own right?

The “right” as the position of honor developed from the time when the right hand was the “weapon hand” or “point of danger.” The right hand, raised without a weapon, was a sign of peace. The right hand, to any observer, is the observer’s left. Therefore, as used in the Flag Code, the flag and/or blue field is displayed to the observer’s left, which is the flag’s “own right.”

Is it proper to fly the American flag at night?

The Flag Code states it is the universal custom to display the American flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. The American Legion interprets “proper illumination” as a light specifically placed to illuminate the flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.

What should be the position of the American flag when displayed from a staff in a church, public auditorium or other public meeting place, whether indoors or outdoors, on a platform, or on the floor at ground level?

When used on a speaker’s platform, the American flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church, public auditorium or meeting place, the American flag should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Prior to the Flag Code changes in 1976, the display procedure was somewhat different. Now, a staffed American flag should always be placed to the right of the speaker (observer’s left) without regard to a platform or floor level.

What are the penalties for the physical desecration of an American flag?

There are currently no penalties for the physical desecration of an American flag. The American Legion and other members of the Citizens Flag Alliance continue working toward securing a constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration.

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