American Politics For Dummies - UK, UK Edition
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To most Americans, the flag of the United States of America is more than just a piece of cloth. The Stars and Stripes represents American freedom, democracy, and sacrifice and should be treated with respect. Respect can mean different things to different people, but the U.S. government isn't going to let individual whims dictate how the flag should be handled. Chapter 36, Title 10 of the United States Code lists the rules, regulations, and expectations concerning patriotism and how the flag should be used and displayed.


Generally, the flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If, however, you want to display your flag through the night, it should be properly lighted.

Placement of the flag

A number of rules govern the placement of the Stars and Stripes, including these:

  • When it's displayed with other flags, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above or to the right of the U.S. flag of the United States

  • The U.S. flag should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

  • The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat.

  • The U.S.flag, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the flag's right (the viewer's left), and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

  • When used on a speaker's platform, the U.S. flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag should hold the position of honor at the speaker's right as he faces the audience.

  • When the U.S. flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union — the blue part with the stars — to the north on an east-west street or to the east on a north-south street.

Flying at half-staff

Flying the Flag of the United States at half staff is a sign of honor and remembrance. When the flag is to be displayed at half staff, it should first be hoisted all the way to the top before being lowered to the center of the flagpole. At the end of the day, the flag should first be hoisted back to the peak before being lowered and removed.

A number of rules govern when and for how long a flag should be flown at half staff:

  • The flag should be displayed at half staff on Memorial Day until noon and then raised to the peak.

  • The flag should be flown at half staff

    • For 30 days following the death of the President or a former President.

    • For 10 days following the death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

    • From the day of death until interment (burial) if an Associate Justice, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a state, territory, or possession.

    • On the day of death and the following day for a member of Congress.

  • The President can also declare other times when a flag should be flown at half staff.

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