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What is Wyoming’s Protocol For Printing the U.S. Flag On Disposable Items?

Townsquare Media

The difference between best practices and laws often end up as blurred lines. Such is the case with proper etiquette of the United States flag. It had been brought to our attention that it was against the federal flag code to print “Old Glory” on a disposable item. Being a military man, I decided to do some research. I had never heard this before, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a fact.

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The internet is a great tool, because it saved me a great deal of time. Thank you Google. The majority (if not all) State and Federal laws are public record, so getting copies is fairly easy, just time consuming. So, I did the next best thing… I found www.usflagcode.org. After a considerate amount of reading, I found it is not against the law to print the US flag on disposable items. However, that does not mean it isn’t against the US Flag code. Allow me to elaborate. The following is an excerpt from actual code:

This code is the guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes. It does not impose penalties for 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.

Criminal penalties for certain acts of desecration to the flag were contained in Title 18 of the United States Code prior to 1989. The Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson; June 21, 1989, held the statute unconstitutional. This statute was amended when the Flag Protection Act of 1989 (Oct. 28, 1989) imposed a fine and/or up to I year in prison for knowingly mutilating, defacing, physically defiling, maintaining on the floor or trampling upon any flag of the United States. The Flag Protection Act of 1989 was struck down by the Supreme Court decision, United States vs. Eichman, decided on June 11, 1990.

While the Code empowers the President of the United States to alter, modify, repeal or prescribe additional rules regarding the Flag, no federal agency has the authority to issue ‘official’ rulings legally binding on civilians or civilian groups. Consequently, different interpretations of various provisions of the Code may continue to be made. The Flag Code may be fairly tested: ‘No disrespect should be shown to the Flag of the United States of America.’ Therefore, actions not specifically included in the Code may be deemed acceptable as long as proper respect is shown.

If you got lost in all that legal “mumbo jumbo”, allow me to put it in layman’s terms. The United States Flag Code is a federal law, but there is no penalty for failure to comply with it. That would be because the US Supreme Court ruled that punitive enforcement would conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

But what does the Wyoming Law state? As far as I could find… absolutely nothing different from the federal law. It seems to be mostly open to interpretation, which is always sketchy. Keep in mind Ralph Lauren’s Polo line has used a flag-like symbol on it’s clothing for years and there all kinds of other flag themed merchandise like handkerchiefs (see also: bandanas), which the code clearly states it shouldn’t be printed on. The argument can also be made that our 3-D glasses are not disposable. Whereas there is one day a year they are in use, they can be saved and used multiple times. Decide for yourself.

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