The Czar’s post on displaying flags on vehicles encouraged a few of you to respond. While these were uniformly positive, two of them had either questions or an additional thought.
From devoted Operative R, the following observations arrived:
Your recent comments on Flag protocol and the abuses thereof are well taken and timely. Due to the fact that there is an entanglement between Flag protocol and the First Amendment, almost all provisions of the protocol take the form “should be.” Even after much searching, I have not located a penalty section. Notable, for the same reason, is the section which prohibits condo associations from preventing display of the Flag.
Although the flag code itself does not provide any guidelines on punishing those who violate the flag code, 18 USC Sec. 700 01/02/2006 does provide for fines and imprisonment for desecration of the flag; however, as R notes, paragraph (d) of Title 18, Section 700, notes that an immediate appeal can be made to the Supreme Court of the United States if the accused believes the act was executed under the First Amendment—and if the Court has not ruled favorably on behalf of the accused under a previous review.
Condominium associations and homeowner’s associations are a mixed bag. Yes, sometimes, there’s no reason for an association to pester a homeowner about their flag other than another cranky resident doesn’t like it. But very often, if you read the story carefully, you realize there is indeed something there—either the flag’s display violates the code, or the flag was mounted precariously, or it’s oversized and infringing on another’s property, and so on. Generally, you can tell by the middle of the story whether or not the homeowner is in the right, here, or if—yeah—the association got it right and the homeowner is being a jerk with the flag. As the Czar stated, most violations originate out of ignorance—the offender honestly thinks he or she is being patriotic here, and doesn’t realize there’s disrespect occurring.
Operative B adds a couple of comments:
Let’s be careful on the canton of the flag (star field). The star field should always be in the upper left on a full flag as you face it. A patch on a uniform does not qualify because it’s not a true flag—there’s no backside to it, and it can’t wave in the breeze. The uniform patch isn’t covered by the flag code, but it is covered by Defense Department regulations as cited by Operative B. Because most NATO nations wear their country’s flag on the right shoulder, the United States moved our flag patch to the right shoulder…which meant the flag looked like it was flying backward. To fix this perception, the flag actually is reversed so that it looks like the service member is moving forward, which was controversial at the time, but most people now think looks pretty cool. Again, patches really don’t qualify as full flags—although make no mistake, readers, that the patches are treated with utmost respect by our service members—so the uniform patch is not in violation of the flag code. Likewise, there’s no reason for a vehicle to display a reversed flag, either—it’s not bound by DoD requirements; if you do choose to display a reversed flag, it’s because you think it looks better that way.
As a US Navy Veteran, I qualify for veteran license plates for my vehicles—which do have a flag on them. Both my car and my motorcycle are equipped with veteran’s license plates. When parked in my driveway, my veteran’s license plates are clearly seen from the street.
Thus, I am always proudly flying the flag.
- The flag should always be displayed with the star field facing forward, e.g. the field always leads the rest of the flag. The person who owns that Jeep was following Army Regulation DA PAM 670–1, 21-18, which states (in paragraph 2): “The U.S. flag embroidered insignia is worn so that the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”
Since the Jeep was using a sticker – or what might be considered a “patch”—this person was doing it right. This is also why you sometimes see flag patches on the right shoulder that look “reversed.”
- One other thing: according to 4 U.S. Code § 8(k) “ 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.” Those “patriots” who fly a flag on their vehicles that is obviously ripped, tattered, coming apart, or otherwise imperfect, are violating the US flag code. In truth, as a veteran, I’d prefer that these idiots use stickers instead.
Your last point is the Czar’s preferred position: use a sticker, magnetic decal, or silkscreen flag on your vehicle. The Stars and Stripes certainly indicate to viewers that you respect the flag, without you having to risk violating the Flag Code because you might be too lazy to read it.
And, yeah, B—if someone is violating the Flag Code by hanging a flag off the back of his vehicle, odds are good he’s violating the Code by having a flag in unacceptable condition as well. That’s two strikes.
Tip for our readers: No United States flag is ever considered obsolete. That 13-star flag you have for Independence Day? That’s an American flag, and falls under the Flag Code. That 48-star flag your uncle brought back from Dubya-dubya Two? That’s also an official flag, and leaving it dumped on the attic floor is a no-no. There are currently twenty-six official American flags that fall under the Flag Code. If you have a Gadsden flag or a Bennington flag or a Betsy Ross flag, those are not covered by the Flag Code, but you know what? Operative R, Operative B, and the Czar will all appreciate it if you treated these with the same level of dignity and respect.