We Pledge Allegiance…To the Code

It flies proudly over noisy July 4th parades commemorating our freedom and stands quiet watch over the graves of our nation’s heroes. Nothing evokes such strong emotion and pride for U.S. citizens as the sight of the American Flag.

Since the American Revolution, rules around the display, care and handling of our nation’s greatest symbol have evolved with our nation. But if you guessed that many of formal rules about our flag that we honor today were developed back in 1776, you may be surprised that your guess is a little bit off … by about 147 years.

The Creation of the Flag Code

Before Flag Day on June 14, 1923 there were no federal or state regulations governing display of the United States Flag. It was on this date that the National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference which was attended by representatives of the Army and Navy and 66 other national groups. The purpose of the conference was to provide clear guidance based on Army and Navy procedures relating to display and other questions about the U.S. Flag. The Code was adopted by all of the organizations in attendance and a few minor changes were made a year later during the Flag Day 1924 Conference.

It was not until June 22, 1942 that Congress passed a joint resolution which was amended on December 22, 1942 to become Public Law 829; Chapter 806, 77th Congress, 2nd session. Exact rules for use and display of the flag (36 U.S.C. 173-178) as well as asated sections (36 U.S.C. 171) Conduct during Playing of the National Anthem, (36 U.S.C. 172) the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, and Manner of Delivery were included.

The U.S. Flag Code has become the guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes. It does not, however, impose any civil or criminal penalties for the misuse of the United States Flag. That is left to the states (and to the federal government for the District of Columbia). Each state has its own flag law.

The years since World War II have seen the refinement of various laws and regulations concerning flag. Today, it has become an accepted part of the decoration of most public buildings and a symbol regarded as appropriate to almost any setting where citizens gather.

Click here to read a full copy of the U.S. Flag Code.

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