Flag Etiquette

Flag of the United States of America

The laws relating to the flag of the United States are found in detail in the United States Code (Title 4 Chapter 1). The Flag Code formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag.

Displaying the Flag Outdoors

When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union (stars) should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff.

When it is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag’s union should be farthest from the building.

When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flagpoles, which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor – to its own right.

  • The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.
  • No other flag ever should be placed above it.
  • The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
  • When flown with the national banner of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size. They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above that of another nation.

Raising and Lowering the Flag

The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

Displaying the Flag Indoors

When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the left.

The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for display.

When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag’s union should be at the top, to the flag’s own right, and to the observer’s left.

Parading and Saluting the Flag

When carried in a procession, the flag should be to the right of the marchers.

When other flags are carried, the flag of the United States may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right.

When the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the flag and salute.

The Salute

To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to the left shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.

The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

The Pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting. When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.

The Flag Code also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. However, there are no penalties for violating the Flag Code. The Code is intended as a guide to be followed on a purely voluntary basis to insure proper respect for the flag.

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure or drawing of any kind.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.

When a flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

The flag should be cleaned when necessary.

When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

Note: Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Many Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well. Contact your local American Legion Hall or Scout Troop to inquire about the availability of this service.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VISIT: http://www.usflag.org

This information is provided by the Washoe County Clerk's Office
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