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Why is it so hard to fly the US flag right? Part IV

Flying the U.S. Flag right—made simple

ScoutSalute This series is intended for a company or individual that wants to fly the U.S. flag correctly—without offending anyone. The genesis of this idea was a conversation with a banker whose beautiful flagpole stood naked in front of the bank. She asked me the question, "Why is it so hard to flying the flag right?" I thought the question deserved a good answer.

In part three of Flying the flag right, I gave a brief overview of the ten sections of the U.S. Flag Code. In that article, it became apparent that we need only concern ourselves with Sections 6, 7, and 8 of the Flag Code to stay in good standing with the flag police.

Each of these sections focuses on a different aspect of flag flying behavior and the titles give a big hint into what each addresses. The section titles are:

Section 6: Time and occasions for display
Section 7: Position and manner of display
Section 8: Respect for flag

Let’s take a look at each of these and see what is pertinent to us in order to fly our flag daily or on named days.


Section 6

This section contains seven subsections labeled (a) through (g) addressing when to fly the flag. For most people, (c) through (g) don’t apply, leaving us with (a) and (b). Do you see how easy this is?

Let me quickly discuss (c) through (g) for clarification.

  • (c) addresses inclement weather—almost all flags produced today are all-weather flags so you don’t have to concern yourself with this one.
  • (d) lists days of the year to fly the flag if you don’t fly it daily, but since we fly it daily, this isn’t a problem … right?
  • (e)(f)(g) gives instructions for government buildings, polling places, and schools. Since we’re flying our flags in front of our businesses or homes, these don’t apply.

(a) states that the flag is to fly in daylight hours only, unless the flag is illuminated, and
(b) simply says, raise the flag briskly and lower it ceremoniously.

See, I told you this was easy. If you don’t have a permanent flagpole, you don’t even have to worry about (b). Just place your flag in the holder on the front of the building or porch and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Section 7

With sixteen subsections, Section 7 is probably the most complicated because it covers how the American flag is flown in relationship with other flags. It goes into great detail about International flags, parades, and hanging the U.S. flag over streets and on walls. These are not the sort of things we really need  to worry about just to fly our flags out front. So what do we need to worry about?

The U.S. flag goes on top if you have a single flagpole and to it’s own right is you have more than one flagpole. I showed illustrations about the flags own right in Part II of this series.

The only other detail from Section 7 you need to pay attention to is the half-staff occasions. I wrote an article about flying the U.S. flag at half-staff, including the specified days, which are part of the U.S. Flag Code.

Section 8

Section 8 contains eleven sections numbered from (a) to (k). If your desire is to fly the flag properly in front of your business or home, there is only one of these that you need to remember, (k):

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

The rest address cover the upside-down distress signal, advertising, using the flag as a cover, and a few others that do apply, but not if your flag is flying on a pole out front.

Summarizing the Basics

That’s it for flying the flag right. If you follow these few simple rules, you will be in good shape with your flag flying. The rest of the U.S. Flag Code is important, especially if someone wants to show disrespect for the flag, but doesn’t know how. They can read the Flag Code and do exactly the opposite.

So to summarize the flag flying basics:

  • 6(a) the flag flies in daylight hours only, unless the flag is illuminated.
  • 6(b) raise the flag briskly and lower it ceremoniously.
  • 7(c) the U.S. flag flies higher (if on same pole), or equal to and to the right of all other flags.
  • 7(m) observe the three and one-half designated days for half-staff flying.
  • 8(k) properly retire the flag when it’s at retirement age (and condition).

There you have the U.S. Flag Code broken down to it’s most basic components for those who wish to fly the flag properly in front of their business or home. There will be other days each year for lowering the flags to half-staff under Presidential or Gubernatorial proclamation, but those events are usually given lots of attention when they occur.

Subscribe to Receive Flag Flying Notices

Starting now, Flags Bay is sending out email notices of special flag flying days to everyone who sets up an account at the Flag Store. This doesn’t mean you have to buy something (of course you can if you want). This list is different than the new email subscription we introduced at the The Daily Flag last week, which emails new articles when they are written. The new flag flying notices will be a simple notification sent several days before a designated flag flying day, including the half-staff days.

Please make sure when setting up the account, you check the box labeled, "Subscribe to Our Newsletter." This will insure you receive the notices in time to fly the flag right.

Happy Flag Flying

10 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to fly the US flag right? Part IV

  1. I am a new member of the Board of Directors for my homeowner’s association. It was brought to our attention that one of our homeowners is flying a flag 24 hours a day and not illuminating it at night. When our management company sent the homeowner a very tactful letter asking him to comply with the flag code, he marked a gigantic “N/A” on the page and sent it back to the management company. Now what? From what I am reading there is nothing we can do to force this homeowner to either illuminate the flag or take it down. It is strictly a voluntary matter.

    It seems strange that we have laws (or codes) regarding the care of our flag and yet we cannot enforce them!

    Do you or any of your employees have any suggestions as to how we can handle this situation?

  2. Gail, I understand your frustration with this issue. I have bemoaned the lack of respect given the U.S. flag for some time. In fact, several times I have written on the topic of honor where it concerns the laws governing etiquette and our flag. For more on that, you can read here and here.

    While the U.S. Flag Code is law, just like the IRS Code, it lacks any enforcement branch within the government. Some states and cities have tried to pass laws for enforcement, but most have been legally challenged and found unconstitutional.

    As far as your specific problem, has anyone talked to the man for his side? Is he opposed to adhering to the U.S. Flag Code as a sign of protest? Does he not have the resources or knowledge to light his flag? Is there a money issue? Maybe he just needs some help. Each of these would require a different approach to solve, but might shed some light on the issue.

    Ultimately, the HOA has no legal grounds to force compliance with the U.S. Flag Code. It is completely voluntary since 1942, when Congress passed the current law, removing the power from the states to address this matter.

  3. Since you put a picture of a Boy Scout on this page, it brings to mind a controversy that flares up every year or so on the various Scouting lists to which I subscribe, and that’s the age-old question: “Why do Scout uniforms have the flag pointing the wrong way?” (or variations on that idea).

    Invariably, the questioner has some military background and judges the Scout uniform is “wrong” because the military uniform has the flag on the right shoulder with the canton on the viewer’s right, so it appears to be trailing in the breeze as the wearer walks forward. The BSA way, they say, shows the flag in retreat.

    In my view, there are a couple of things wrong with this idea: first, the BSA is not the Army, so there’s no reason to believe Army uniforming rules should apply to BSA. Second, the Army’s own regulations provide that a battle patch may be worn ABOVE the flag patch on the right shoulder. If the Army wants to treat the patch as a flag, I wonder how they came up with THAT one?!

  4. Fred, I don’t guess I’ve witnesses this dissension from military guys on the Scout flag, but I have read a few that didn’t like the fact of the patch above the U.S. flag. In fact, the last time I read someone writing about it, they had refused to put the battle patch on, not wanting to dishonor the American flag.

    Deborah has found all the Military Flag Codes online for the different branches, but we haven’t had time to dissect them to see what they address, other than the obvious. The Navy (as one would guess) is the longest and most complicated, what with port calls in foreign countries.

  5. […] Painting by Norman Rockwell, Scout saluting the flag. […]

  6. pls,help me to write a good needs why flag is so important to a country and it is reason and protection guarding it.

  7. Mr. Christopher: I’m sorry that I didn’t see your question earlier—I was out of town overnight. We at The Daily Flag have been writing for 18 months about the flag. You can back up all the way to the beginning in January 2007, or you can look at categories of articles as a place to begin. I also recommend the book Flag, by Marc Leepson. You can check it out from the library or buy your own copy. It’s an excellent overview of our American flag.

    I cannot speak for other countries.

  8. I am currently having the exact opposite problem that Ms. Cooley is/was having. I would like to have a 24-hour American Flag displayed in my front yard, and looking at my HOA guidlines, I (amazingly) only have one standard that’s going to be an issue. The guidlines very specifically state that “No illumination of the flagpole shall be permitted.” Granted, however, this regulation is designed for flags in general, not just the American Flag. But my question is this; would this guideline be considered an “unreasonable restriction” under the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, or am I going to have to resort to something a little less honorable, like hoisting the flag anyways without the HOA’s cooperation? Any reply would be greatly appreciated.

    Very Respectfully,

  9. Hi Daniel—thank you for writing.

    The wording of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act offers a careful balance of “rights.” You the homeowner absolutely have the right to fly the American flag on your property. That your HOA permits a real flagpole is rare—too many HOAs will not. On the other side is the HOA, which says, “no lights on the pole.” Many neighborhoods are trying to reduce light pollution so people can sleep better without unnecessary lights shining in the windows, and so they can sit in their yards and see the stars.

    I personally don’t think the lights on a flagpole would be so bright as to cause this problem, but the HOA has a hole card in the same Act: (2) any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association. The HOA believes “no lights”on the flag pole is a reasonable restriction. You must also consider that a flag snapping in the breeze during the day is not a problem, but at night the sound could travel a long way.

    Your choice is put up the flag each morning, and take it down at night. Or you might consider a smaller pole, such as a diagonally mounted pole on your porch. Unless the HOA forbids you to burn your porch light all night long, you can display the flag 24 hours a day, and illuminate it too.

    If you light your tall flagpole, and end up in arbitration, I believe the HOA would win. I know this is not what you hoped to hear, but you do have some options. Please let me know how this works out for you.

    Best Wishes, Deborah

  10. Try Google-ing the question – “Why is the US flag so important”. You will find a good article in Wikipedia regarding the question. good luck!@DIKE CHRISTOPHER

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