Whether you call it Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, the Star Spangled Banner or the Red, White and Blue…the United States Flag is much more than just a pretty piece of fabric.

Because it represents our living nation, the flag is a living symbol of our country. You'll see it waving proudly outside our homes and businesses, schools and offices, in cities and towns all across America.

Join WTAJ Your News Leader, WeAreCentralPA.com and our sponsor: Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries celebrate and pay special tribute to the American Flag.

Let's get started with an introduction to the United States Flag Code.

The United States Flag Code

Previous to Flag Day, June 14, 1923 there were no federal or state regulations governing display of the United States Flag. It was on this date that the National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference which was attended by representatives of the Army and Navy which had evolved their own procedures, and some 66 other national groups. This purpose of providing guidance based on the Army and Navy procedures relating to display and associated questions about the U. S. Flag was adopted by all organizations in attendance.

A few minor changes were made a year later during the Flag Day 1924 Conference, It was not until June 22, 1942 that Congress passed a joint resolution which was amended on December 22, 1942 to become Public Law 829; Chapter 806, 77th Congress, 2nd session. Exact rules for use and display of the flag (36 U.S.C. 173-178) as well as associated sections (36 U.S.C. 171) Conduct during Playing of the National Anthem, (36 U.S.C. 172) the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, and Manner of Delivery were included.

This code is the guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes. It does not impose penalties for misuse of the United States Flag. That is left to the states and to the federal government for the District of Columbia. Each state has its own flag law.

Criminal penalties for certain acts of desecration to the flag were contained in Title 18 of the United States Code prior to 1989. The Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson; June 21, 1989, held the statute unconstitutional. This statute was amended when the Flag Protection Act of 1989 (Oct. 28, 1989) imposed a fine and/or up to I year in prison for knowingly mutilating, defacing, physically defiling, maintaining on the floor or trampling upon any flag of the United States. The Flag Protection Act of 1989 was struck down by the Supreme Court decision, United States vs. Eichman, decided on June 11, 1990.

While the Code empowers the President of the United States to alter, modify, repeal or prescribe additional rules regarding the Flag, no federal agency has the authority to issue 'official' rulings legally binding on civilians or civilian groups. Consequently, different interpretations of various provisions of the Code may continue to be made. The Flag Code may be fairly tested: 'No disrespect should be shown to the Flag of the United States of America.' Therefore, actions not specifically included in the Code may be deemed acceptable as long as proper respect is shown.

Flag Etiquette Tips

Flying the U.S. flag at the peak above any other flags.

  • The American flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset. If a flag is to be flown at night for a patriotic effect, it should be illuminated.
  • The American flag should not be flown during inclement weather unless it is made of all-weather materials.
  • An American flag should never be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
  • The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly.
  • When a flag is being lowered, no part of it should touch the ground.
  • The flag should never be dipped to any person.
  • On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon and at full staff from noon until sunset.
  • When the flag is on display, it should be accorded the place of honor. That means it should always be positioned to the right of the speaker or staging area. Other flags should be placed on the left.
  • When the flag becomes damaged beyond repair, it should be disposed of by a dignified burning. Many American Legion posts across the country hold ceremonies on Flag Day (June 14th) for such purpose.

Flag Etiquette Tips from our sponsor: