Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flag Day is Saturday - do you know the rules of flag-flying?

This Saturday is Flag Day. It's the anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes as America’s flag. Do you know the protocol for properly displaying Old Glory? For more information about flag protocol, read the June Uptown article.

Is there a law dictating flag protocol?

For nearly 50 years after Congress authorized the U.S. flag design, there was no uniform set of rules for displaying and showing respect for the flag. To develop a guide, a National Flag Conference was held in Washington, DC, on Flag Day, June 14, 1923. Congress adopted it in 1942 making the flag code law. Congress amended the resolution in 1976 and enacted it as Public Law 94-344, commonly called the Flag Code.

According to the Code, “The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. The flag should be displayed daily, weather permitting, on or near the main administration building of every public institution. The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.”

Can you fly the flag at night?
While it is customary to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. According to a 2009 report from Congressional Research Service, “It would seem that display of the flag in a respectful manner with appropriate lighting does not violate the spirit of the Flag Code since the dignity accorded to the flag is preserved by lighting that prevents its being enveloped in darkness.”

What does half-staff mean?

The term “half-staff” means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. When flown at half-staff, hoist the flag to the peak for an instant then lower it to the half-staff position.

Likewise, raise the flag to the peak for an instant before lowering it for the day. On Memorial Day, fly the flag at half-staff until noon then raise it for the remainder of the day.

Who can order the flag to be flown at half-staff?

Only the president, governor and mayor of the District of Columbia can call for the flag to be flown at half-staff.

Does state law have provisions about flying the flag at half-staff beyond what the federal government requires?

According to SC Code 1-3-470, the governor will order flags on state buildings flown at half-staff on the day of burial or other service as a tribute for any firefighter or law enforcement officer who died in the line of duty. He will request flags over the buildings of all political subdivisions to do the same. Additionally, flags on top of the State Capitol must be lowered to half-staff on the day when funeral services are conducted for members of the United States military services who were residents of South Carolina and who lost their lives in the line of duty while in combat.

Also flags atop state and local public buildings must be flown at half-staff until at least noon on POW/MIA Recognition Day (the third Friday in September) according to Section 53-3-165 of the SC Code of Laws.

The state Budget and Control Board provides email notification of half-staff observances. Subscribe here.

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