U.S. Flag Etiquette, Rules, and Guidelines

How to Properly Display the American Flag

June 12, 2019
American Flag Flowing
Pixabay

Many of our readers ask about American flag etiquette and the U.S. Flag Code. Here is a list of rules and guidelines for displaying the American flag and treating it with proper respect.

Honoring the Flag Code

On June 22, 1942, Congress passed a joint resolution, later amended on December 22, 1942, that encompassed what has come to be known as the U.S. Flag Code. 

Perhaps the most important guideline involves how citizens should behave around the Stars and Stripes: The flag of the United States is the emblem of our identity as a sovereign nation, which the United States of America has been for more than 200 years.

Therefore, members of the armed services and veterans are asked to stand at attention and salute when their flag is passing in a parade or being hoisted or lowered; civilians should place their right hand over their heart.

When to Display the American Flag

The flag is a symbol of respect, honor, and patriotism. It may be displayed on any day of the year according to the following guidelines:

  • The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement.

  • The custom is to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on flagstaffs in the open, but it may be displayed at night—if illuminated—to produce a patriotic effect.

  • The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on:

        New Year’s Day, January 1
        Inauguration Day, January 20
        Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, third Monday in January
        Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12
        Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February
        Easter Sunday (variable)
        Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May
        Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May
        Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
        Flag Day, June 14
        Father’s Day, third Sunday in June
        Independence Day, July 4
        Labor Day, first Monday in September
        Constitution Day, September 17
        Columbus Day, second Monday in October
        Navy Day, October 27
        Veterans Day, November 11
        Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November
        Christmas Day, December 25
        and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States
        the birthdays of States (date of admission)
        and on State holidays.

  • The flag should be displayed at every public institution and in or near every polling place on election days, and at schoolhouses during school days.

American flag

How to Properly Display the American Flag

As a symbol of the country and its people, the flag should be treated with respect and be honored when on display. In order to treat the flag with the dignity it deserves, the following display guidelines are recommended.

General Guidelines for Displaying the Flag:

  • When the flag is hung vertically on a wall, window, or door, the Union (blue section) should be to the observer’s left. When the flag is hung either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the Union should be to the observer’s left.

  • In a procession, the American flag should be to the right (the flag’s own right) of any other flag or, if in a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.

  • When displayed from a staff projecting from a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff.

  • When the flag is displayed otherwise than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out; or so suspended that its folds fall as freely as though the flag were staffed.

  • When displayed over a street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.

  • On a platform, the flag should be above and behind the speaker, with the union uppermost and to the observer’s left.

  • When displayed from a staff in a church or auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at the speaker’s right as he faces the audience.

  • When the flag is used to cover a casket, the union should be at the head and over the left shoulder.

Hoisting and Lowering the Flag:

  • The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

  • When flown at half-staff, the flag should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff position. It should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. Half-staff is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag must be flown at half-staff on all buildings on the death of any officer listed below, for the period indicated:

    • For the President or a former President: 30 days from the date of death.
    • For the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives: 10 days from the day of death.
    • For an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives: From the day of death until interment.
    • For a United States Senator, Representative, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico: the flag should be flown in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia, on the day of death and on the following day; in the state, congressional district, territory, or commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, from the day of death until interment.
    • For a Governor: Within the state, territory, or possession, from the day of death until interment.

Displaying the American Flag on a Vehicle:

  • The flag should not be displayed on a float except from a staff, nor draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle.

  • When the flag is displayed on a vehicle, the staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis.

Displaying the American Flag Alongside Other Flags:

  • In the United States, no other flag should be placed above the American flag or, if they are to be placed on the same level, to the right of the American flag.

  • The United Nations flag may not be displayed above or in a position of superior prominence to the United States flag except at United Nations Headquarters.

  • The flag, when displayed with another against a wall—both from crossed staffs—should be on the right (the flag’s own right), and its staff should be in front of the other staff.

  • The American flag should be at the center and the highest point when displayed with a group of state flags.

  • When flags of states, cities, etc., are flown on the same halyard, the American flag should be at the peak.

  • When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height, and the American flag should be hoisted first and lowered last.

American Flags

How Not to Display the American Flag

The flag and its likeness should be treated with respect. Its image should not be cheapened or tarnished by improper use.

  • The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing, including government officials—even the President.

  • The flag should never be displayed with the union (stars) down, unless as a signal of dire distress.

  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

  • The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored so that it might be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

  • The flag should never be used as covering for a ceiling.

  • The flag should never have anything placed on it.

  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose, nor embroidered on cushions or handkerchiefs, printed on paper napkins or boxes, nor used as any portion of a costume.

How to Properly Dispose of an American Flag

  • When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified and ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning.

  • Most American Legion posts will conduct an annual ceremony, often on Flag Day (June 14) to retire old or worn flags; contact your local chapter if you are not able to dispose of the flag yourself. You could also ask your local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts troops about retiring your flag.

Any Questions?

Do you have a question regarding displaying or respecting the American flag? Ask us in the comments below!

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Reader Comments

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It's all about respect.

It's all about respect.

On the point of what to do

On the point of what to do with an American flag when it is no longer a fitting emblem, please take it to your nearest American Legion Post for the annual ceremony on June the 14th. Also note that burning the American flag is becoming an unacceptable practice (adds to the greenhouse gases that is melting the polar regions and heating up the atmosphere). Probably, Congress should revise their flag's resolution for a more modern day American society. Carried horizontally?; Watch a football game open ceremony. Not used for advertising purposes?; Did you ever see a gal wearing one as a bikini at the beach? Honor the United States of America with a forgiving mind, a loving spirit, and peaceful actions. Then "old gorly" will be the symbol of greatest nation the world has ever known. It is a far better thought that God would bless each and every person on earth than for God to only bless American.

One 'retires' the flag - it

One 'retires' the flag - it is not 'burned'...as for greenhouse gases increasing from this practice: the volcanoes that are spewing cause more harm than the flag retirements.

It says it SHOULD never.

It says it SHOULD never. Theres no law that makes it officail rule. There are always inconsiderate businesses and people who will use our nation symbol as a scummy way to make a couple bucks.

The burning of the US flag is

The burning of the US flag is NOT becoming unnacceptable, the thought that it is becoming unnacaeptable to burn is itself unnaceptable!

The Retiring of the US Flag involves BURNING the flag after CUTTING it properly.

Dont burn All-Weather FLags, made of Nylon, toxic. Clotyh flags are very ok to burn and do NOT contribute to GReenhouse gasses.

Correction on the last entry

Correction on the last entry of the article..."When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferrably by burning." Before you burn our great flag, PLEASE cut the stars section from the stripes. Then you will be burning two pieces of cloth and not our flag.
One other thing of note. I can't remember any other President apologizing to the world for Americans. Please Mr President, don't apologize for me. I'm too proud of my country to ever bow down in humility for being an American.

Right One Sam!

Right One Sam!

There are protocols as to

There are protocols as to retiring a flag. I remember our troop, armed with scissors, would cut the field (stars) first; then another scout patrol would cut the red stripes and place in a container. White stripes were placed in another container. When all flags were done we took them to an undertaker who volunteered to 'cremate' the piles. The ashes of all these flags (more than 100) were placed in an urn and these were ceremoniously placed on hallowed ground (our local cemetery). All Scouts were duly impressed with an increased awareness of respect and honor.

It's my belief our country is

It's my belief our country is primarily about the freedom of thought and religion. Whether we believe in a 'god' or not, it is our choice. One can still have respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without believing in the supremacy of a supreme being. THAT, to me, is what America is -- the ability to

    choose

beliefs.

"One Nation Under 'God'

"One Nation Under 'God'
There are no atheists in a foxhole. But to choose is, yes, a right men and women have died for.

The settlers came here for

The settlers came here for freedom of religion. The section under god was not original. It was later added! I'm not sure what service you served in but the one I do respects all religions and allows their soldiers to practice freely. The Americas were founded on the separation of church and state!

The phrase "separation of

The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the United States Constitution. In the First Amendment, however, we are given to believe that no law-maker has the right to choose a national religion for us. Also, I believe that it gives people the right NOT to believe in God. The phrase "separation of church and state" was first seen in a letter which Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association on the first day of 1802—which was nearly 13 years AFTER our Constitution was put into effect on the 4th of March, 1789. (and therefore NOT foundational) He was responding to a letter written to him by the aforementioned association. They were concerned that--in the future--some law-maker or other person in power might see fit to make legislation which dictated how/when/where/with what type of religious group or even if Americans MUST worship.
In his response, Thomas Jefferson attempted to reassure this group by saying,
"Believing with you that religion is a
matter which lies solely between man
and his God, that he owes account to
none other for his faith or his
worship, that the legislative powers
of government reach actions only, and
not opinions, I contemplate with
sovereign reverence that act of the
whole American people which declared
that their legislature would "make no
law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof," thus building a
wall of separation between Church and
State.”
The First Amendment put boundaries on what could be legislated. It did not, however, in any way, shape, or form allow for people to be berated because they believe that--in a basic way--our Nation was formed on Christian values. Is this a Christian nation? Definitely, it is not anymore. But was it formed by men who knew their Bibles well and who believed in an Almighty Creator and who strove to live lives which honored Him? Why, yes. Yes, it was. I believe that a responsible and honest researcher would find it to be true.
One of my problems is that people have put forth this offal in regard to what 'separation of church and state' meant to the founding fathers (and, therefore, what it should mean to us) and have 'equivocated' its meaning into something more palatable to them for SO long that we’re actually starting to believe the lies. It wasn't supposed to mean that we can't pray in public or in school or have a Bible in public or have the words "In God We Trust" on the walls of governmental buildings. And that is what--mostly thanks to the ACLU--we now have as "truth" in our nation--that Christianity is in no way allowed to even hint at touching anything governmental. Malarkey!! Read the papers of the Founding Fathers of our Nation! Read transcripts of the inaugural speeches of every single American President, even our current one. Phrases such as "...that Almighty Being..." and "...His Providence..." and "...that Being in whose Hands we are..." are found in transcripts of speeches from the earliest presidents of our great nation.
Sadly, we've evolved into a nation wherein Christianity is 'persona non grata.’ God and Christianity are shoved—quickly—into the cupboard under the stairs whilst practically every other type of religion is shown the most comfy chair and given the best food and drink available in our home. It makes zero sense to me is why we're not allowed to pray to God or read our bibles in school, but if we want to get down on a prayer rug three times a day and pray to Allah--well, then that is perfectly acceptable and no one will naysay that at all. But they sure will fight vehemently against any show that someone might love and want to serve the God of the Bible. Do you not see the hypocrisy? It is a shame that—in order to make all groups to feel more welcome—we as a nation must subdue that which has been a part of our society since the very beginning. 
And in regard to the actual subject of the thread and not ‘realitycheck’s comment, I’m glad these rules have been posted. I’m often amazed at how many businesses have Old Glory flying at night without the ‘light shining’ on her.

Lolly, Hooray for you!!! I

Lolly,
Hooray for you!!! I could not have said this any better than you did! I agree with you 1000%--on every single point!
Gary

Speration of Church and State

Speration of Church and State wasnt designed to keep governmant out of religion, as all churches and religions must follow the law of the land, but to keep religion from influencing government.

Learn from Italy's mistakes.

So many get that backwards!

No nation under god. "one

No nation under god. "one nation under god" was not added to the Pledge of allegiance, until 1954, in response to the "godless" communists.

As an aside, Americans are not required to state the pledge of allegiance. That's American.

Take your god, and do what you please, do not force your god on others. The establishment clause provides for freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, for all.

Hey this person actually read

Hey this person actually read the constitution and bill of rights. Thank you.

Honer in this country is

Honer in this country is being let down '
Men have died to keep USA a GOD fearing nation ' Honer and Pride must be restored'''
our flag is a simble of GOD with the USA

Men and women died for our

Men and women died for our rights as Americans. NOT to keep us a "god fearing nation", as you put it. No where in the US Constitution does it state, that we should fear god, that's your issue.

The American flag is the symbol of our nation's strength and unity. Not our religious beliefs.

Well it seems like nobody,

Well it seems like nobody, even the president, follows the Constitution these days so what ever. I wish Ron paul was still in the race, he is the only candidate who planned on following the Constitution.

Honor and pride have been let

Honor and pride have been let down by people we elected to serve this great country. GOD and the American flag are not protected by those we put in charge to do so [no GOD, no pride or honor in USA].
Men have died for both.

The only reason we have been

The only reason we have been let down by the people we've elected is because we elected them. The change must start with us.

Thank you for being awake.

Thank you for being awake. There is only a few of us in the US these days.

A lot of flag rules have been

A lot of flag rules have been dishonored for a very long time. Some of them may or may not be incredulous for our era. Times change but it takes a long time to amend laws and rules of conduct. It's like a lot of rules and laws; not enforced.

I wish more folks were aware

I wish more folks were aware of these rules & policies of display & care of the American flag.

The flag is printed on

The Editors's picture

The flag is printed on everything (cups, napkins, boxes), but apparently it's against the rules!

I feel they should not put

I feel they should not put "untrue" representations of our American colors on cups, plates, shirts, bandanas you name it. Our colors should only be represented as a flag and not a piece of money collections. If you want to show your pride fly your flag, your American flag properly per proper guidelines. There are proper guidelines available to display correctly.

I smell the Political

I smell the Political Correctness Police - PCP. If these rules bceom law, I will kill another dinosaur!

The majority of people who

The majority of people who know the rules and regulations and proper respect to the U.S. Flag are Military or former military personnel. It's drilled into our heads.

(Laughing softly) Lee,

(Laughing softly) Lee, Scouts know. While at a parade a civic group came upon me/the unit I serve (Cub Scouts - I in the vintage den mother yellow). I heard one of them say "ask her - she's a scout; she'll know." What they didn't know is I'm also a daughter of a WWII Marine -- know? Heck I live it! Semper Fi and God Bless America

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