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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Dr. Tom Barrett
Bio: Dr. Tom Barrett
Date:  September 25, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

Protecting our Flag

One of my earliest memories as a child growing up on US Air Force Bases was of the raising and lowering of the base flag. When the music started playing indicating the raising of the US flag in the morning or its lowering in the evening, everything stopped. Everyone one foot, both military personnel and civilians, stopped and faced the flag pole, even if they could not see it. Those in cars or trucks stopped, exited their vehicles, and did the same. We all stood at attention. Those in uniform saluted, and the rest of us placed our hands over our hearts until the ceremony ended.

One of my earliest memories as a child growing up on US Air Force Bases was of the raising and lowering of the base flag. When the music started playing indicating the raising of the US flag in the morning or its lowering in the evening, everything stopped. Everyone one foot, both military personnel and civilians, stopped and faced the flag pole, even if they could not see it. Those in cars or trucks stopped, exited their vehicles, and did the same. We all stood at attention. Those in uniform saluted, and the rest of us placed our hands over our hearts until the ceremony ended.

I was traveling on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, so I had occasion to observe American flags on display in many communities. I saw three categories of flag display, two of which distressed me. The first was flags displayed with a patriotic intent using proper respect and flag etiquette. The second was flags displayed with a good intent, but in a manner disrespectful to the flag, and thus to our nation. The third was a crass and cynical display of flags for advertising purposes.

To the patriotic Americans who display their flags properly on holidays and special occasions (and the many who proudly display their flags every day), I say, "Thank you." Thank you not only for displaying the flag, but for taking the time to learn the proper and respectful way to do so.

This article is written for those in the second category, to the many who fly flags for the right reasons, but in the wrong way. You may not even be aware that there is such a thing as the US Flag Code. The Flag Code, which is part of Federal Law, exists to ensure that the US Flag is displayed in a manner that is proper and respectful. It also prescribes the manner in which a flag which is no longer serviceable should be retired. (Hint: It should not be thrown in a trash can.)

To those in the third category, who use the flag rather than respecting it, I say, "Shame on you." In numerous places I saw long rows of American Flags, as many as two dozen, in front of businesses and shopping centers. Had these same businesses displayed one flag prominently, I might have a different opinion of their intentions. But the use of dozens of flags is obviously for the purpose of drawing attention to the business, not unlike flying blimps or large balloons. If you observe this practice, I encourage you to do as I have done: Tell the manager of the business or shopping center that you do not appreciate them trying to play on the patriotism of others by using the flag as an advertising device.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 8(i) of the US Flag Code reads: "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."

The United States Code is the official compilation of the Federal laws concerning the display and care of our nation's flag that are currently in force. The Code is compiled by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the United States House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, as with most things the government touches, the Flag Code is long and cumbersome. If contains over 50 Titles, each with many sub-titles. Much of the code deals with areas that concern only military and governmental agencies. In Conservative Truth I often research detailed subject matter and bring to the attention of my readers the areas that will be meaningful to them. I will attempt to do so with the US Flag Code, emphasizing those parts of it which relate to the ordinary US Citizen who wants to display his or her flag in a way that honors it and the country it represents.

I have provided links to several websites which have good explanations of the US Flag Code. Instead of going over all that material, I would like to direct my remarks to some common mistakes I have seen recently, and show you how they can be avoided.

The single most common mistake is the display or worn, faded or tattered flags. As the symbol of our nation, the flag should always be displayed in good condition. This does not mean that it must be in brand new, perfect shape. The flag can be cleaned and mended as necessary. But once the colors fade or the winds start to shred it, it is time to buy a new one. They are not expensive.

When you buy a new flag, make sure you dispose of the old one in the proper manner. Flags should never be thrown away like common garbage. Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Contact your local American Legion Hall and inquire about the availability of this service. Many Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well. You may also do this yourself in a safe and respectful manner. It can serve as a good lesson to your children.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 8(k) of the US Flag Code reads: "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

The flag should never touch the ground. While on our vacation we saw a flag displayed at a county historical museum on a pole so short that it touched the rocks surrounding the base of the flag pole. When I mentioned this to the curator, he responded, "Well it must be displayed properly. The Veterans placed it there." Unfortunately, as I told him, the veterans unknowingly violated the Flag Code when they allowed it to touch the ground.

I also saw many flags lowered to half staff in respect for those who died on 9/11/2001. However, the lowering of many of those flags allowed them to touch the roof of the buildings on which they were displayed. The owners should have either left the flags at full height, or lowered them less than halfway to prevent them from touching anything beneath them.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 8(k) of the US Flag Code reads: "The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise."

No flag, including the flag of the United Nations, is allowed to be flown above or displayed in a position more prominent than the US Flag, except for the Christian Flag during church services (see below). An exception to the law regarding the UN flag is made only at the UN headquarters.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 7(c) of the US Flag Code reads: "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, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy. No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof."

One of the more commonly misunderstood sections of the Flag Code concerns when the flag may be displayed. The US Flag should only be flown when it can be seen. It should never be enshrouded in darkness, because it symbolizes the light of liberty with which we as a nation have been blessed. According to the Flag Code, it should only be displayed after darkness if it is lighted.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 6(a) of the US Flag Code reads: "It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness."

Finally the Flag Code prescribes the proper manner in which the flag must be saluted. And, yes, it contains the phrase, "under God" which is so hated by the liberals of our nation. Civilians and uniformed personnel alike are expected to stand at attention out of respect when pledging their allegiance to the flag.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 4 of the US Flag Code reads: "The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: 'I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.', should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute."

I am sometimes criticized for my choice of subjects. I will probably receive emails asking why, with so many critical world events in the news, I have chosen to address the US Flag Code in this column.

The answer is simple. With so many critical events in the news, Americans need to be united. Evil people within and without our nation are working overtime to divide us. Much of their efforts have centered on the US Flag, including demonstrations in which the flag is carried upside down, and flag burnings, because the flag has always been a unifying symbol.

Title I, Chapter 4, Section 8(a) of the US Flag Code reads: "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

The City of Berkeley, California, disciplined their firefighters for flying US Flags in the aftermath of 9/11. The disgustingly liberal city council stated that the US Flag was "divisive." Recently a group of illegal aliens and legal immigrants of Mexican descent took down the US Flag flying over the US Post Office in Maywood, California, and replaced it with the Mexican national flag. The fact the California police officers, who are sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land, allowed such a desecration to take place at a federal facility says a lot about the declining patriotism and respect for our flag that exists among much of our country.

The American flag has always been a symbol of freedom and hope throughout the world. If we do not treat it with respect, we should not be surprised when others desecrate it.

Dr. Tom Barrett
Conservative Truth (Publisher, Editor)

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Biography - Dr. Tom Barrett

Dr. Tom Barrett has been an ordained minister for 30 years. He has written for local and national publications for most of his life, and has authored several non-fiction books. He has been interviewed on many TV and radio programs, and speaks at seminars nationwide. Tom is the editor and publisher of Conservative Truth, an email newsletter read by over fifty thousand weekly which focuses on moral and political issues from a Biblical viewpoint.

Tom is Publisher and Editor of ConservativeTruth.org.


Read other commentaries by Dr. Tom Barrett.

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Copyright 2006 by Dr. Tom Barrett
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