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Flag Protocol
U.S. FLAG ETIQUETTE & PROTOCOL
 
At this time of year, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol receives numerous inquiries regarding U.S. flag etiquette and protocol. With the approach of Flag Day (June 14) and the Independence Day (July 4) observances, we are pleased to share information regarding the appropriate display of the U.S. flag.



GENERAL GUIDELINES

  • The flag must be treated with respect and dignity at all times.
  • A U.S. flag is always displayed with the union (blue field of stars) at the top.
  • The flag should not be allowed to touch the ground.
  • It is not necessary to destroy a flag that has inadvertently touched the ground.
  • No flag on display with the U.S. flag should be larger or taller than the U.S. flag.
  • All flags used for an event should be the same size.
  • The flag may never be worn as apparel.
  • It is inappropriate to write on a U.S. flag or attach any logos, insignia or other symbols to the flag.
  • The U.S. flag is always placed in the position of honor--to the right

    STAGE/DAIS/PROGRAM

     
  • The U.S. Flag is placed stage right (to the speaker's right)
  • If a ceiling is low, the flag may be placed on the floor next to a stage or dais at stage right.
  • If displayed flat on a wall, either horizontally or vertically, the blue field is at the upper left-hand corner to the viewer.
  • It is never appropriate to display more than one U.S. flag during a program or event.


    AUDIENCE FLAG

    If a group/organization attending an event brings its own U.S. flag to an event or program (i.e., Boys Scouts), the flag is placed on the floor to the right side of the group (stage left). (This is a rare example of the flag representing the group that provided it and not the program taking place.)


    OFFICE

     
  • When displayed in an individual's office, the U.S. flag should be positioned behind and to the right of individual seated at the desk.
  • If the flag is displayed in a corridor outside an office, it should be to the left side of the door when viewed by those entering the office.


    CONFERENCE ROOM

    If displayed in a meeting or conference room, the U.S. flag is positioned behind and to the right of meeting host, as host is seated.


    LIMOUSINE/AUTOMOBILE

    The U.S. flag may be mounted on the right, front fender of an automobile.


    RECEIVING LINE

    The U.S. flag is placed behind and to the right of individuals in the line.


    BUILDING/HOME

     
  • The U.S. flag should be displayed on the left side of the main entrance, as viewed from the sidewalk or street.
  • If displayed in a row with other domestic flags, the U.S. flag may be placed in the center and slightly higher than others.
  • If mounted flat, horizontally or vertically, on a building or wall, the union (blue field of stars) is at the upper left-hand corner to the viewer.


    COLOR GUARD PRESENTATIONS

     
  • If a color guard is presenting colors (marching in and out with flags), but not posting colors during a program or event, a U.S. flag may be on display on a stage/dais or in a room during the presentation of colors.
  • If a color guard posts the colors (places the flag in a stand for duration of a program/event), there should be only one U.S. flag on display.


    FLAG POLE/STAFF

     
  • If flown on a pole with another flag, the U.S. flag is at the top of the pole.
  • When displaying the U.S. flag and a second flag from a crossed staffs, the U.S. flag is placed to the viewer's left and its pole/staff is in front of that of the accompanying flag.


    CARRYING THE FLAG

    Option 1: If the U.S. flag is carried with other flags in a procession/parade, it is in the position of honor at the far right side of the line of flag carriers (carriers' right).
    Option 2: The U.S. flag carrier may march ahead and centered in front of a line of other flags in a procession/parade.


    ORDER OF PRECEDENCE

     
  • The U.S. flag is always placed in the position of honor-to the right.
  • Flags representing foreign countries; U.S. states, counties or cities; military services, units or leaders; government agencies; honored guests or sponsoring organizations follow the U.S. flag in order of precedence when displayed.


    HALF STAFF DISPLAY

     
  • When displaying a U.S. flag at half staff, it is first hoisted to the top of the pole/staff and then lowered to half-staff position. When removing a flag from half-staff position, hoist it to the top of the pole/staff before removing it.
  • If a Federal holiday or Flag Day occurs within a period of half-staff display, the flag remains at half-staff.


    PATRIOTIC DECORATION

     
  • It is never appropriate to display more than one U.S. flag during a program or event.
  • The U.S. flag is not d├ęcor. Don't drape the flag on tables, swag it on platforms or railings, or use it as a table covering. Instead, use bunting or other red/white/blue materials. When arranging red/white blue striped fabric, place the blue stripe at the top.
  • Small, friendship flags (miniature replicas of foreign flags) may be placed on a conference or dining table as a sign of respect for foreign visitors.


    RETIRING A FLAG

    The Flag Code dictates that "The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." Typically you would cut the union from the flag then destroy them together. This way you are not burning the flag but two separate pieces that when united make the flag. The National Flag Foundation (see contact information below) provides guidelines for a patriotic flag burning ceremony (Ceremony of Final Tribute). Also, you may contact a local chapter of VFW, the Elks or other community service organization for assistance with disposing of a damaged flag, and flag recycling programs exist in some communities.


    ADDITIONAL FLAG INFORMATION

    Public Law 94-344
    National Flag Foundation, www.americanflags.org; (412) 261-1776
    The Betsy Ross Homepage, www.ushistory.org/betsy


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