17 April 2015

Flag Etiquette and Crocheters

I have seen, and probably you have too, many beautiful flag afghans.

I had even bought a book of afghan patterns that included a beautiful flag afghan pattern that I was going to make until I was told about the flag code forbidding bedding with a flag design. I have also seen some cute models wearing flag-inspired swimwear. An applicable quote from the code is "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery."

What about the depiction of the American flag on postage stamps? Does this violate the flag code? 

Section 83 of the Flag Code reads, "The flag should never be used in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way." It reads "[The flag] should not be printed or otherwise impressed on anything that is designed for temporary use and discard." Sounds like to me that these government approved stamps violate the government written flag code. (more information here about a third of the way down the page.)

What's the penalty for breaking the flag code?
There isn't one. The flag code is an odd duck in this regard. As part of the The United States Code, the flag code is technically federal law. However, the code doesn't outline any measures for enforcement or punishment.  Basically, the flag code is a set of advisory rules for Americans who want to know the proper and respectful way to display their flag. Even if the flag code did provide measures for its enforcement, it's not clear that the measures would be constitutional. Individual states used to have their own prohibitions on and penalties for desecration of  the flag, but the 1989 Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson invalidated these laws as infringements on free speech. Congress responded by passing the Flag Protection Act, which made flag desecration a federal crime. Supreme Court struck down this law in the 1990 case United States v. Eichman. (and more info here.)

This page is a gateway to much detailed information on flag etiquette and use. I do not mean to negate the talent put into the making of American flag crocheted afghans; because most of the ones I have seen are examples of very talented crafters. I believe that we need to spread the word about what is/is not allowed. Americans are not stupid people. We have intelligence. We do not need to establish more big government to rule us nor do we need to establish a system that fines or jails us for violating the flag. We just need to obey the rules! If you don't believe in the rules then as an American, you can write to your politicians or lobby to change the rules or in extreme cases move to another country.

I am a veteran, can I salute the flag at a military funeral, sporting events or other situation where the flag is flown?
Some thing that many veterans and service members might not be aware of is that Public Law No. 110-181 changes section 9 of title 4 permitting members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform to render the military salute. I have done this at a few military funerals that I have attended. I felt a sense of pride to be able to send off my friends with the respect they earned as defenders of our Constitution and country.


The topic of crocheting flag afghans has become a discussion in a crochet group I follow on facebook. A member got a little testy and said that making flag afghans is okay because of how veterans use the flag. If you have visited my blog before, you may remember that I am a 100% service-connected disabled veteran. As such, I am expected to follow the same laws pertaining to the flag as anyone else and I do so with pride.

It is a sad situation if Americans think it is okay to violate federal laws because they can get away with it.