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Legal Resources for Flag Day


Today, June 14, is Flag Day.  Flag Day was first celebrated in Connecticut in 1861, nationally recognized by President Wilson in 1916 and finally established by Congress as a national holiday in 1949 (36 U.S.C. § 110).
Although Flag Day is not a federal holiday, the Federal government encourages Americans to celebrate the occasion: “Americans are encouraged to display the flag outside their homes and businesses on this day to honor the history and heritage the American flag represents.”  For those who wish to do so, the proper manner of displaying the flag is laid out in 4 U.S.C. §§ 1-10, known as the Federal Flag Code.  This report and FAQ by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reviews the Flag Code and answers a few popular questions about them.
But don’t let fear of an accidental code violation keep you from displaying a flag: there is no statutory penalty for a private citizen in violation of the Flag Code, and the Supreme Court has ruled that violations of the Flag Code may be protected as political speech, most notably in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), and United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).  Anyone interested in a detailed review of the Supreme Court’s treatment of flag protections may find one in CRS Report 95-709.
 

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