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Flag laws in the United States

Last modified: 2013-12-13 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | law | nazi |
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A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court about banning flags

I thought the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no banning of the type like in the city of Raleigh, NC, was permissible. The very famous case of the (extremely small) Nazi party in Chicago which obtained, after long struggle and much public debate, the right to march in a suburb mainly inhabited by people of Jewish extraction and religion. The debate over this issue continues in U.S. society. Technically, the Nazi flag is not banned here as in Germany, and many people believe that to ignore the manifestation of symbols is better than suppressing them. This is not to say that the evil of the philosophy should be ignored, or the revision of history many here would like to practice.
Jahvah, 28 September 1995


Flying earlier versions of the U.S. flag

All versions of the U.S. flags ever used are still, as new versions have been authorized, but old versions have never been unauthorized.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 21 February 1996

According to President Dwight Eisenhower's Executive Order (#10834, published 25 August, 1959) the 50-Star flag would become the "official flag of the United States on July 4, 1960." The Order also states "All national flags...now in possession of executive agencies...shall be utilized until unserviceable."

Earlier, the White House had issued the following statement to the public: "By law, the new 50-star flag will become the official flag of the United States on July 4, 1960, the birthday of the Union. Display of the new flags before that time would be improper. However, it would not be improper to display the 48-star and the 49-star flag after that date; with limited exceptions agencies of the Federal Government will continue to display the 48-star and the 49-star flag so long as they remain in good condition and until existing stocks of unused flags are exhausted. It is appropriate for all citizens to do the same." (21 August 1959)

The answer seems to be that only 50-star flags are "official" but it is appropriate to display earlier examples. A publication sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America states "Historic U.S. flags are due the same honor and respect that are given today's colors. When a historic flag is carried or displayed with a present-day flag, the modern flag takes precedence." These do not appear in the Flag Code nor the Executive Orders covering the flag, but they make sense.
Nick Artimovich, 21 February 1996


Using the flag for advertising

The Flag Code does state: "The U.S. flag should never be used for advertising in any manner whatsoever." That is not usually broadly construed to bother companies that just display a single flag of normal size.
Nick Artimovich, 21 February 1996


Forbidden flags

The U.S. has no such prohibitions, but 17 states do have "forbidden flags." Here is a quick summary of those state laws, most of which have certain exceptions (loopholes.) Please note that these are brief summaries of brief summaries!

California
prohibits the display of the "red flag or any other flag in a public place" as a sign of violent opposition to organized government. No state military group may carry other than the U.S. or State flags.
*note*: in 1931, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned this law. see Stromberg v. California.
Colorado
prohibits display of any flag other than U.S. or State on public buildings or grounds, or displays such flag in a place knowing it is likely to cause a breach of the peace.
District of Columbia
prohibits, on U.S. Capitol Grounds a flag designed to bring into public notice a party, organization or movement.
Idaho
prohibits the display of the "red flag or any other flag in a public place" as a sign of violent opposition to organized government. No state military group may carry other than the U.S. or State flags.
Louisiana
prohibits, during time of war, the display the flag of a nation or of a state with which the U.S. is at war.
Massachusetts
prohibits the display of the flag of a foreign country outside of a public building or schoolhouse.
Mississippi
prohibits flags designed to bring into public notice an organization not specifically permitted by statute.
New Hampshire
prohibits the display of a foreign flag on a public building, or the UN flag other than subordinate to the U.S. flag on public property.
New Jersey
prohibits the display of a flag of a foreign country unless accompanied by a U.S. flag of at least equal dimensions.
New York
prohibits the UN flag above the U.S. except at UN HQ. Flags which cast contempt on U.S. flag are prohibited. Foreign flags on public property are prohibited.
North Dakota
prohibits public display of other than the U.S. flag, a State flag, or flag of a friendly foreign nation.
Oklahoma
prohibits "red flag," etc, or any flag "over public property, except roads, stadiums or arenas, unless it is the U.S. flag, the flag of a nation once having dominion over the State, the State flag, an official municipal flag, the Boy Scouts flag, the Girl Scouts flag, the American Red Cross flag, or a flag approved by the governing body..."
Pennsylvania
prohibits other than U.S. flags over public buildings.
Rhode Island
prohibits flags in a parade unless accompanied by U.S. flag, prohibits flags with inscriptions opposed to organized government or derogatory to morals, and prohibits foreign flags from public buildings or schools.
Washington
prohibits flags antagonistic to U.S. or State laws or constitution.
West Virginia
prohibits black or red flags or others antagonistic to U.S. or State constitutions, laws, ideals, and institutions.
Wyoming
prohibits state military organizations from carrying other than U.S. flags.

In general, the references to "public property" mean government office buildings, public schools, police stations, etc. The full text of the laws have lots of little details and exceptions.

The principal editor of Stars Stripes and Statutes was Patricia Artimovich, Esq. (my wife.)

Nick Artimovich, 21 February 1996