Respecting Old Glory this Fourth of July
DES MOINES, Iowa – This Fourth of July holiday, many Americans will show their patriotic spirit by flying the Stars and Stripes - and they're being asked to keep flag etiquette in mind.
Kathy Nees, programs director for the American Legion Department of Iowa explains the American flag should be respected because it represents freedom, democracy and the history of the nation.
"It stands for everything that our troops have fought for, in all wars past and all the way through the current war on terrorism," she explains. "Display it with pride, and we certainly encourage patriotism and Americanism."
According to the United States Flag Code, the American flag should always be the highest in a series of flag poles and never be displayed if tattered. It should never touch the ground and always be carried "aloft and free." It also should be illuminated if flown at night, and destroyed in a dignified manner when it's no longer in fit condition.
Violating the U.S. Flag Code isn't against the law, and Nees notes that in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled desecration of the American flag is a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment.
"Until there is an amendment passed by Congress, there is no disciplinary action for disrespect for the flag," she says. "The American Legion has always pushed for a flag amendment to protect those colors."
Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a co-sponsor of legislation announced in June to change the U.S. Constitution to give Congress the authority to prohibit "physical desecration" of the American flag. Similar amendments have been attempted in the past, but opponents say acts of desecration are part of Americans' right to expression and rarely occur.