The U.S. Flag Code is the only law that doesn’t contain a penalty for violations. In fact, the National Flag Foundation goes as far to say, “Quite simply, it is a guide for civilians and civilian groups who wish to properly honor the United States of America’s principle emblem.” I don’t believe I agree with that statement and wish to examine it here.
The U.S. Flag Code is part of the United States Code. The U.S. Code is a massive set of documents containing information on Congress, the President, Bankruptcy, Patents, the Postal Service, the Tax Code, and of course, the Flag Code (and much more).
That brings me to my question. Is the U.S. Tax Code a guide for those that want to respect the Government? Is the U.S. Patent Code a suggestion of how to protect your inventions? The answers to the above questions and others like it are … NO!
The reason the Flag Code gets made into a suggestion box is that there are no penalties for code violations like there are with Tax Code violators. Strange though—there is a penalty mentioned in the section addressed to the District of Columbia. In D.C. if you use the flag for advertising or mutilate the flag in any way, the code calls for a $100 fine or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, at the discretion of the court. This has probably been nullified by recent court decisions on 1st amendment issues.
My intention is not to read into what the code says, but to read it and determine what is says. Personally, I tend to look at things as stated, and in light of historical context.
I could be way off-base here, so what do you think? Is it just a suggestion, or is it the Law?