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Proper Flag Etiquette

By Staff
The following questions are often asked when displaying the American Flag properly. Nick Smith, an Atmore resident and a member of the Reader Advisory Board of The Atmore Advance, has provided answers to many of these questions.
1. How should the American Flag be displayed in the front of, or in the window of, either a home or office building?
Answer: When displayed in the front of, or in a window, of a home or office building, the flag may be hung vertically or horizontally, and is in proper position when, viewed by someone on the outside of the building, the blue field is always in the upper left corner of the flag. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7[I]).
2. How should the flag be displayed when there are several poles of equal height?
Answer: When displayed with other flags on poles of equal height in front of a building, the American Flag is always flown on the pole to the building's right. The "building's right" is correctly determined by standing between the building and the flagpoles with your back to the building. The correct pole will be the furthest pole to your right. The American Flag should be the first hoisted and the last lowered. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7[g])
3. How should the flag be displayed against a wall?
Answer: When displayed flat against a wall, or in front of, but close to a wall, the flag may be hung vertically or horizontally, but in all cases, the blue field should be in the upper left corner of the flag. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7[I])
4. How should the flag be displayed over a street?
Answer: When displayed from a wire crossing a street, the flag should be hung vertically. Proper positioning of the flag will have the union (blue field) facing either north on an east-west street, or east on a north-south street. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7[i])
5. How should the flag be carried in a parade if it is the only flag?
Answer: When carried in a parade as the sole flag, the flag should be carried at the center of the marching route, and ahead of the body of the marchers it is leading. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7)
6. How should the flag be carried in a parade with other flags?
Answer: When carried in a parade with two or more other flags, the American Flag should be to the furthest right of all flags, or by itself centered in front of the rest of the flags. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7)
7. How should the flag be displayed after dark?
Answer: When flown after sunset and through the night, the American Flag should be well lit for the entire night. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 2[a])
8. How should the flag be displayed against a wall with another flag?
Answer: When it is displayed with another flag from crossed staffs against a wall, the American Flag should be on the flag's own right (the viewer's left), and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[d])
9. What is the proper method of flying a flag at half-staff?
Answer: When flown at half-staff, the flag should first be hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[m])
10. How should the flag be flown over a sidewalk on a rope or wire from a house to a pole?
Answer: When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union (blue field) first, from the building. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[h])
11. What is the proper position for the flag when accompanied by other flags of States, cities, municipalities or societies?
Answer: When flags of States, cities, or municipalities, or pennants of societies, are flown on the same halyard (rope) with the flag of the United States, the American Flag should always be at the peak. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[f])
12. What is proper protocol when the flag is flown with the flag of another nation?
Answer: When flags of two or more nations are displayed together, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above the flag of another nation in time of peace. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[g])
13. How should the flag be displayed in a church or auditorium?
Answer: When displayed from a staff in a church of public auditorium, the American Flag should hold the position of superior prominence, in front of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag displayed in a similar manner should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker, or to the right of the audience. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[k])
14. Is it ever proper to fly another flag above the American Flag while in America, or on American soil or property? If so, when and where?
Answer: During services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, the church pennant may be flown above the American Flag during the worship services for Naval personnel. "Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3[c])
15. Is it permissible to fly the American flag upside down? If so, under what circumstances?
Answer: The American Flag should never be displayed with the union (blue field) down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life and property. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8[a])
16. What must one keep in mind with respect to the flag and what it touches?
Answer: The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8[b])
17. Is it permissible to carry the flag flat?
Answer: The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8[c])
18. What about using the flag as an item of clothing, or in the home as decoration or drapery?
Answer: The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should never festooned, drawn back, drawn up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping in front of the platform and for decoration in general. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8[d])
19. What about wearing the flag on a costume or uniform?
Answer: No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be attached to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. (Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8[j])
20. How should a well-worn and/or faded flag be disposed of properly?
Answer: The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning in a privately held ceremony. (Title 4, chapter 1, Section 8[k])