Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Flag Use and Decorum in Parades

Surely there are few sights more stirring for citizens of our country than that of our national flag flown during a parade.  Civic pride is appropriately provoked by the pomp and pageantry of such times, and too, these community gatherings and celebrations are fitting occasions to reflect on the many gifts of our citizenship, and the sacrifices made by those who secured them.  Still, the flag of the United States must be afforded its proper and fitting place apart from and above the ancillary festivities.

In parades themselves, the flag of the United States is generally to be carried in the front.  Accordingly to Section 7 of the Flag Code, if it is carried with another flag or flags, the flag of the United States “should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag’s own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.”  “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.  Flag Code, Section 7(c).  (Section 7(b) cautions that generally, the flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff.)

Section 9 provides that the salute to the flag should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.  All persons present should face the flag and stand at attention, and except for those in uniform, should place their right hand over their heart.  Those in uniform should render the military salute.  When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

Question:  I will soon be traveling abroad and will have occasion to be a spectator at a parade in a foreign country.  Given my United States citizenship, and my commitment and oath to this country, what tribute, if any, should I pay to the flag of foreign countries should they be displayed on this occasion?

Answer:  The provisions of the Flag Code apply to the display and respect shown for flag of the United States, so have no literal application.  However, Section 9 of the Flag Code provides that “[a]liens should stand at attention” during any ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review.  This symbolizes that, while we do not ask foreign nationals to pledge their allegiance or otherwise afford undue reverence to our flag in deference to their own citizenship elsewhere, certainly it is expected that they show their respect for our national emblem and the country for which it stands during their time here.  Applied by analogy, as a citizen in the United States, we believe that the Flag Code recognizes world custom, and you should stand at attention at any time the foreign flag is hoisted or lowered, without formal salute, and do the same at the moment the flag passes in a parade or in review.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Displaying the Flag: Typical Outdoor Use

Section 6 of the Flag Code provide guidance as to the times and occasions for displaying the Flag of the United States of America in the ordinary course out of doors.  It calls for display on stationary flagstaffs that are in the open and clearly visible.  In raising the flag, it should be hoisted or posted briskly.  Conversely, it is to be lowered or removed ceremoniously.  There are special rules regarding how to hoist and lower at half-staff. 

Aside from all other rules permitting display, it is improper to display the flag on days of inclement weather.  This is to say that the flag should be lowered and stowed on rainy days.  It may be displayed in this circumstance, however, if adequately protected from the elements, or otherwise constructed of specific “all weather” materials.

By universal custom, the flag should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset.  For those who know this rule, there are few feelings more disheartening than the lifeless flag standing neglected in the pitch of night, and this is the most often overlooked rule of residential patriots who would prefer avoiding daily hoisting and lowering.  For them, the Rules of Flag Etiquette provide an exception for the compliant-minded:  “When a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution, in or near every polling place on election days, and in or near schoolhouses during school days.

Question:  The school in my neighborhood did not hoist the flag today.  What up?

Answer:  We reviewed the weather conditions in your neighborhood, and learned that there were scattered showers that day.  Most likely the flag was not displayed in view of the inclement weather, which is not only appropriate but required.  By the way, if you have questions as to the display or nondisplay of the flag in practice by a public institution, most are very receptive to your constructive input, and you should feel comfortable broaching the subject.  Most public institutions have a specific reason for their approach to flag display, or will be appreciative of learning more from the public.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Displaying the Flag: Half-Staff

In raising the flag, it should be hoisted or posted briskly.  Conversely, it is to be lowered or removed ceremoniously, so says Section 6(b) of the Flag Code.  Section 7(m) speaks to when the flag is flown at half-staff.  It should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant, and then lowered to the half-staff position, in tribute.  At the time of lowering, it should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.  More elaborate, though, are the rules related to when half-staff display is appropriate.

On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, and then raised to the top of the staff for the remainder.  The flag is also generally flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day.

The flag is to be flown at half-staff for 30 days from the death of a President or former President; and 10 days from the date of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Lesser times are prescribed upon the death of persons holding other, specific government positions.  Separately, by order of and as instructed by the President, the flag is flown at half-staff “as a mark of respect to their memory” on the death of principal figures of federal government, state governors, or other officials or foreign dignitaries.  A state governor has similar authority within his or her state’s borders for state government officials.  Finally, on June 29, 2007, President Bush signed the “Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007,” which permits state governors to order the flag to be flown at half-staff in tribute to a member of the Armed Forces from that state who dies while serving on active duty.

Question:  I have a small, stationary flag posted at my home, not one that is hoisted and lowered on a flag pole.  This is to say that I cannot fly my flag at half-staff.  Is it appropriate for me to display the flag in this manner on days or on occasions where the flag should be at half-staff?

Answer:  Unfortunately, there is no set law or rule that addresses your question, and you should know that when there are unanswered questions, we always turn to the underlying purpose and significance of the Flag Code, rather than its specifics.  Based on that, our view is that the half-staff rules invoke protocols that are of greater symbolism than mere display, but otherwise elaborate upon the display of the flag generally.  As a result, we view it appropriate for flags that are not capable of being displayed at half-staff to be displayed in any event, in whatever form that may take.  A flag displayed at half-staff is a particularly reverent event, and it in no way cheapens the circumstance to display a flag in the ordinary course that is otherwise incapable of being flown at half-staff.  To the contrary, in its own way, any display of the flag is symbolic.  If done as a tribute to an event which otherwise requires half-staff display, it itself is a tribute to that event.