4th of July Flag Etiquette

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Gayle Anderson was live in Hollywood to learn about flag etiquette for the Fourth of July at Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion, the “Post of the Stars.” Since 1919, Post 43 has been composed of Hollywood professionals in the entertainment industry. Its historic clubhouse, located on Highland Avenue, was dedicated in 1928 and completed in 1929. Built in an Egyptian Revival-Moroccan Deco architectural style, the building features a ballroom, a cabaret-style dining room, an auditorium, a four-room museum, library, conference room, dressing rooms, and a Deco bar. It is a Los Angeles Registered Historical Landmark. Its members have included Clark Gable, Mickey Rooney, Ernest Borgnine, Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan. There are currently more than 500 members in Post 43, who continue serving America by supporting local veterans and the community. For more information, click here.

Many Americans will display the American flag this weekend to honor the Fourth of July holiday. Among the etiquette the public should know is that according to the Flag Code, the flag and/or blue field should be displayed to the observer’s left, which is the flag’s “own right.” The “right” is the position of honor developed from the time when the right hand was the “weapon hand” or “point of danger.” The right hand, raised without a weapon, was a sign of peace. The right hand, to any observer, is the observer’s left.

While the U.S. flag is a symbol of our nation, there are many myths surrounding its proper display and etiquette. Thankfully, the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, is largely considered the go-to source for questions regarding the proper display of the American flag.

The following is a list of the “Top Ten” Flag Myths courtesy the American Legion:

1. The Flag Code is The American Legion Flag Code.
On Flag Day, June 14, 1923, The American Legion and representatives of 68 other patriotic, fraternal, civic and military organizations met in Washington, DC for the purpose of drafting a code of flag etiquette. The 77th Congress adopted this codification of rules as public law on June 22, 1942. It is Title 4, United States Code Chapter 1.

 2. A flag that has been used to cover a casket cannot be used for any other proper display purpose.
A flag that has been used to cover a casket can be used for any proper display purpose to include displaying this flag from a staff or flagpole.

3. The Flag Code prohibits the display of a United States flag of less than 50 stars.
According to the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry the United States flag never becomes obsolete. Any officially approved American flag, irrespective of the number or arrangement of the stars and/or stripes may continue to be used and displayed until no longer serviceable.

4. The Flag Code does provide for penalties for violations of any of its provisions. 
The Flag Code is simply a guideline for proper flag etiquette. The law does not provide penalties for violation of any of its provisions.

5. You must destroy the flag when it touches the ground.
As long as the flag remains suitable for display, the flag may continue to be displayed as a symbol of our great country.

6. The Flag Code prohibits the washing or dry-cleaning of the flag.
There are no provisions of the Flag Code, which prohibit the washing or dry-cleaning of the flag. The decision to wash or dry-clean would of course depend upon the type of material.

7. There has been a change to the Flag Code that no longer requires the flag to be properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
There has been NO CHANGE to Flag Code section 6(a), which states: “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

8. The mayor, a town official, or the Post Commander can order the flag to be displayed at half-staff.
The gesture of placing the flag at half-staff means that the Nation or the state mourns the death of a highly regarded National or state figure, hence only the President of the United States or the governor of the state may order the flag to be half-staffed in accordance with Flag Code section 7(m). Those individuals and agencies that usurp authority and display the flag at half-staff on inappropriate occasions are quickly eroding the honor and reverence accorded this solemn act.

9. The Flag Code states that when the flag is no longer a fitting emblem for display it is to be disposed of by burning in private.
The Flag Code as revised and adopted by the Congress of the United States in 1942 has never included the word(s) "private" or "in privacy." Section 8(k) of the Flag Code states: "The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." Since 1937, The American Legion has promoted the use of a public flag disposal ceremony. This ceremony is a fitting tribute and an overt expression of patriotism, which enhances the public's understanding of honor and respect due the American flag.

10. The Flag Code prohibits the “fringing” of the flag.
Fringing of the flag is neither approved of nor prohibited by the Flag Code. The American Legion considers that fringe is used as an honorable enrichment to the Flag. Additionally the courts have deemed without merit and frivolous, lawsuits that contend that the gold fringe adorning the flag conferred Admiralty/Maritime jurisdiction.

In addition to these common flag myths, the American Legion states that wearing an article of clothing that looks like the U.S. flag is not illegal. Viewers can feel free to express their patriotism and love of country by wearing red, white, and blue with stars and stripes this holiday weekend. However, viewers may want to re-think wearing any clothing made from an actual U.S. flag, which would be in breach of flag etiquette. While patriotic flag bunting is a representation of the flag, it is not an actual American flag and does not need to be taken down at night.

Once you take down the flag, the traditional method of folding the flag is as follows:

A) Straighten out the flag to full length and fold lengthwise once.

B) Fold it lengthwise a second time to meet the open edge, making sure that the union of stars on the blue field remains outward in full view. (A large flag may have to be folded lengthwise a third time.)

C) A triangular fold is then started by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge.

D) The outer point is then turned inward, parallel with the open edge, to form a second triangle.

E) The diagonal or triangular folding is continued toward the blue union until the end is reached, with only the blue showing and the form being that of a cocked (three-corner) hat.

As a symbol of our nation and its freedom, protestors have physically desecrated the flag as a sign of protest. Flag burning, for instance, constitutes symbolic speech that is protected by the First Amendment as ruled in Texas v. Johnson. There are currently no penalties for the physical desecration of the flag, although the American Legion and other members of the Citizens Flag Alliance continue working toward securing a constitutional amendment to protect the flag from physical desecration.

The American Legion is a nonpartisan and not-for-profit organization that was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans. For more information or to order publications on proper flag etiquette, visit the American Legion website.
Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion
2035 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068
(323) 851-3030

The American Legion National Headquarters
700 North Pennsylvania Street
P.O. Box 1055
Indianapolis, IN 46206
(317) 630-1200
(317) 630-1223 FAX

If you have questions, please feel free to call Gayle Anderson at 323-460-5732 or e-mail Gayle at Gayle.Anderson@KTLA.com

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