How to Properly Display American Flag Outdoors

The United States of America has long held that the nation’s flag is to be displayed with honor and treated with dignity. In the late 1800’s there were questions and disagreements about how the flag could be used and what the proper flag etiquette was. A Flag Code was written to answer these questions and unify the nation on how the flag was to be treated.

A History of the Flag Code

According to the US Senate website, “On June 22, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved House Joint Resolution 303 codifying the existing customs and rules governing the display and use of the flag of the United States by civilians.” The Flag Code has been periodically updated and amended since this codifying in 1942. The Congress enacted the Flag Protection Act of 1989, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1990 when violations desecrating the flag were politically motivated.

flag-hanging-etiquetteFlag Etiquette on September 11

Congress designated September 11 of each year as “Patriot Day” by a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89). On Patriot Day, by declaration of the US President, the flag is to be flown half-staff from sunrise to sunset. The half-staff status of the flag is in honor of the lives lost on September 11, 2001 and to memorialize the victims of that day.

Properly Flying the Flag at Half-Staff

According to the Flag Code, section 7m, “The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.” Flying the flag half-staff means the flag should be flying from the middle of the flag pole. State, city or local flags should also fly at half-staff when the US flag is flying half-staff (Flag Code, section 7f). The Flag Code makes no provision for a flag fixed to a pole or staff, but mourning may be shown by tying a streamer of black crepe immediately below the flag (ushistory.org).

A Voluntary Honor

Flying the flag with appropriate etiquette is a work done by voluntary citizens. While desecration of the flag may be penalized (except for political statements protected by freedom of speech), there are no penalties for violations of etiquette or standards. Following the Flag Code enables citizens to show honor to the flag and unity within the nation. Flying the flag half-staff on September 11 is an important tribute to the memory of the victims and service members who died in the terrorists acts of 9-11.

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