Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Turns out this actually is against the law

CNN has a report on a veteran in Reno, NV who took offense to a Mexican flag flying above the U.S. flag over a local store, and took it upon himself to remove the offending flag (although from the video, it looks like he removed both.)

It turns out that it actually is against federal law to fly another flag higher than, or even adjacent to, the U.S. flag, except in certain circumstances. It's in Title 4, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code (the collected, codified federal statutes). Section 7 provides as follows:
(c) No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy. No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof: Provided, That nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a position of superior prominence or honor, and other national flags in positions of equal prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the headquarters of the United Nations. (Emphasis added)
The thing is, the U.S. Code does not seem to prescribe any particular criminal penalty for violating this section (although I didn't look all that hard.) I do know that one of my former law partners once defended a guy charged with criminal mischief, a misdemeanor in Texas (unless the damage is greater than $1,500), for doing the exact same thing here in Austin (i.e. tearing down a Mexican flag he deemed offensive). So please, don't go running around tearing down any non-U.S. flags you see.

I just can't seem to get all worked up about the Mexican flag, though. I do remember being bemused by people protesting the immigration issue with Mexican and other flags (although much of this may have been overblown.) Maybe it's my Texas heritage (we've beat 'em before, we can do it again, or something like that). Maybe it's a failure of patriotism. Maybe it's just that there are far, far bigger threats to the U.S. than the position of our flag on the streets of the Biggest Little City in the World.

No comments: