Flag etiquette

The Flag Code formalizes and unifies the standards of respect that must be given to the flag, even containing specific instructions regarding how the flag should not be used.

The American flag symbolizes many things to many people. While the American flag is proudly displayed in millions of buildings and homes across the United States year-round, it tends to draw special attention each summer, when Americans celebrate Memorial Day in May and their independence on July 4.

The Flag Code formalizes and unifies the standards of respect that must be given to the flag, even containing specific instructions regarding how the flag should not be used. The following are some of the rules that govern how to display the American flag.

1. Raising and lowering the flag

According to USFlag.org, the American flag should be raised quickly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. While the Flag Code suggests the flag should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset, if it is displayed at night, it should be illuminated. The flag should be saluted as it is hoisted, and when lowered that salute should be held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the final note of music, whichever is the longest.

When displayed indoors, the flag should be displayed to the right of the speaker, staging area or sanctuary. Any additional flags hanging in the room should always hang to the left of the American flag. When flags are grouped for display, the American flag should be in the center and at the highest point of any flag.

2. In mourning

The American flag is often displayed in mourning. When placing the flag at half staff, first hoist it to the peak for an instant before lowering it to a position halfway between the top and bottom of the staff. During mourning, when the time comes to lower the flag, it should once again be momentarily raised to the peak before it is lowered.

The American flag is flown at half staff when mourning designated, principal government leaders. It also must be flown at half staff upon presidential or gubernatorial order.

When covering a casket, the American flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should never be lowered into the grave.

3. Parading the flag

When the American flag is carried in a procession, such as in a parade, the flag should always be to the right of the marchers when it is the lone flag being represented. When other flags are carried, the American flag may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right. Parade audiences should salute the flag as it passes in the procession.

4. Flag restrictions

There are many conditions under which the American flag is not to be used. These include:

• The flag should never be used as a decoration. Use bunting to decorate with the colors of the American flag, always ensuring the blue stripe of the bunting is on top.

• The flag should not be used as part of advertising. The flag also should not be embroidered, printed or impressed on articles such as cushions, napkins, boxes, or anything considered temporary that is likely to be discarded after use.

• The flag should not be used as part of a costume. The uniforms of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations are permitted to wear American flag insignias on their uniforms.

• The flag is not to be used as a receptacle to carry, deliver, hold, or receive anything.

The American flag is an enduring symbol of freedom and sacrifice to millions of people across the globe. The flag should always be displayed with the utmost respect and in adherence to the guidelines set forth by the Flag Code.

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