Donate to RNS

Flying Christian flag above U.S. flag isn’t a federal crime

Federal law says don't do it, but that's just a suggestion.

Photo at

Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, NC built a flag pole in front of its building for one purpose: to fly the U.S. flag below the Christian flag.The church is protesting the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage and showing that it will “serve God rather than men.”

The move raises a host of questions, not the least of which is the legality of the action. Is it a federal crime to raise another flag above the U.S. flag? The simple answer is that it’s a violation of etiquette but isn’t a crime.

Title 4, Chapter 1 § 7 of the U.S. Code does provide explicit language on the position of flags:

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.

Flying the Christian flag higher than the U.S. flag obviously goes against this stipulation. However, the “Flag Code” is a codification of flag etiquette; civilians are not required to follow them. There are no punishments, fines, or other penalties for violating the rules.

According to the Congressional Research Service, federal courts have consistently ruled that the Flag Code “does not proscribe conduct, but is merely declaratory and advisory.”

So, the protest by Elizabeth Baptist Church it’s not an act of civil disobedience because they’re not breaking any laws. It may be offensive, but it’s perfectly legal.

Don’t miss any more posts from the Corner of Church & State. Click the red subscribe button in the right hand column. Follow @TobinGrant on Twitter and on the Corner of Church & State Facebook page.

Donate to Support Independent Journalism!

Donate Now!