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The Biggest Flag Myth of All

Flags displayed on three staffs

Three equal staffs with the U.S. flag properly flown to its own right.

The more I read and study, the more one big flag myth stands out. I read the following sentence in a California news article that I won’t even reference because it was filled with so much misinformation.

Protocol concerning the use of the American flag is that it must be higher than a state flag or the flag of any other symbol.

I don’t know where this myth got started, but that’s what it is—a myth. The U.S. Flag Code is very clear in this area, stating:

Section 7(f) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.

The section clearly states that the flag or pennants can’t fly above the American flag, with nothing about the U.S. flag flying higher, except on the same staff.

Let’s look farther into the code and see what is said about nations flags.

Section 7(g) When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size.

Flown on staffs of the same height … hmmmm. Do you think this means they should fly at different heights on the equal height staffs? That doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s back up a few paragraphs and see what (c) has to say in addressing the United Nations flag and headquarters, with a reference to national or international flags.

(c) No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy. No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof: Provided, That nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a position of superior prominence or honor, and other national flags in positions of equal prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the headquarters of the United Nations.

Now here’s some real meat for digging into. The first sentence says, “or, if on the same level, to the right” of the American flag. Well, that seems to indicate the same level is okay.

Then is says, “no one can fly the UN or National or International flag equal or above the U.S. flag,” but it includes a thereof, which says it’s okay at the UN. This must be where they get off track.

The thing to keep in mind is that the different paragraphs refer to different entities, (c) to UN, National and International flags, (f) to States, cities, pennants, and societies, and (g) Nations.

The problem begins when someone tries to apply the UN paragraph (taken out of context) to states and cities. It’s all rather simple, really. Just grab a copy of the flag code and read it. That will end most discussions and disagreements quickly.

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