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Flag manners: 8 ways to show the American flag some respect

The last word on flag etiquette is President Franklin Roosevelt's US Flag code. Its key point: The American flag 'represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.' No flags as tablecloths, please.


Doneta Francine Mazele, a Congo native, receives an American flag after becoming an American citizen during the North Carolina Fourth of July Festival's naturalization ceremony in Southport, N.C., Wednesday.

Matt Born/The Star-News/AP

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Feeling the urge to unfurl your Old Glory for Independence Day?

Uncle Sam would be proud. But for the casual American flag owner, striking the right balance between patriotic and polite can be tough. No one wants to go the way of Home and Gardens TV and apologize for suggesting an American flag can be a bright and festive table runner, as it did last month.

The American flag “represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing,” according to US Flag Code. Many people consider it sacred, and abide by the Flag Code, approved by President Franklin Roosevelt on June 22, 1942, for rules on proper handling of the flag.

If you don’t know the ins and outs of flag code, or wonder if you’ll really be punished for breaking the rules, read on for a primer on how to fly the American flag without offense.

All answers in quotes are from the US Flag Code.

Can I fly my flag at night?

"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."

If my flag touches the ground, do I really need to burn it?

"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."

Must the American flag be higher than all other flags?

"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.


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