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Flag Code Violations Abound!

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The current U.S. Flag Code was codified in 1959 with only a couple of updates since then, so with few exceptions, it is still intact. The final version took from many historical documents, bringing them together into one code, signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower on January 3, 1959. This Executive order also included the order to add the fiftieth star for Hawaii on the following Fourth of July, 1960.

Much of the flag code is violated every day, even by those that are supposed to uphold the standard, the U.S. Government.

Here is some text from the Flag Code, where I have highlighted a few phrases. As you read these examples, think about what you see on a daily basis.

Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8: Respect for flag
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.

I’ll stop there, but there’s more. As you can see, many aspects of the flag code are violated every day, and I see no way to restore the genie to the bottle. The flag code only contains one defined call for punishment for a violation, located in Section 3:

… to advertise, call attention to, decorate, mark, or distinguish the article or substance on which so placed shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, in the discretion of the court.

Flag ShortsHorizontal Flag

I know of no instance where this has been used to deter a lack of respect for the American flag. In fact, the courts have declared that first amendment rights include flag desecration.

Now to address the highlighted parts of the code above. Think with me about the following: flags are displayed horizontally at many big football games, flags and their representatives regularly adorn running shorts and shirts, and flag napkins are available at any party shop, ready for the fourth of July. The U.S. Postal Service regularly issues stamps with American flags, ready for temporary use, then disposal into the nearest trash receptacle once the letter or bill is delivered.

If we strictly held to the principles of the U.S. Flag Code, many people would be fined daily, but maybe we must also practice tolerance while educating the masses. Most of those who violate the flag code are celebrating the flag, not intentionally disrespecting the flag.

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