Disgraceful use of the American Flag:
I have quite a bit of information on my website detailing how to properly use and dispose of an American flag. There are other websites that have similar information and then there are the government websites that have the full text of the US Flag Code. Having said all that, I’m not going to repeat myself or the other websites. Americans need to learn what the proper use of the flag actually is. Granted, many Americans hold Old Glory dear in their hearts and have the best intentions. However, some flagrantly disregard the Flag Code and think “cute” or “breathtaking” pictures are OK. They are not and I’m calling you out as of now. This will be an ongoing post so if you have any kind of picture to submit, please let me know and I’ll put it up right away. Don’t forget to state who the photographer is or, if the photographer is you and you are showing an improper display, let me know the company.
Our first entry: This is by Julia Carlson Baby Photography. While I love the composition and lighting of the photograph, the Flag Code states that the American flag shall not be used as a receptacle for anything, Mrs’ Carlson. Please take this photo off of your site! And you, Marine (Lt?), are you that unaware? Did your training fail you?
You should re-read the U.S. Flag Code. The verbiage used is, “should.”
“Shall” denotes mandatory.
“Should” denotes a recommendation.
Government legislation is extremely specific, so it is not merely an oversight that it is worded the way that it is. If an individual chooses to express their freedom of speech then they can make their own determination on what is tasteful and what is disgraceful. In your opinion, the picture is distasteful–which is fine because you have a right to freedom of speech. However, there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about choosing not to head the government’s “recommendation.”
I do not mean any disrespect, but I do not see any thing wrong with this picture. In my eyes, I see a baby protected under the love and protection of its father and its country. To me this picture is a symbol of honor and pride. I am also currently expecting with a marine baby. I am also going to have pictures made similar to this. I do in fact see these as beautiful pictures, but not just because it’s a baby.
Thank you very much for weighing in on, what some might call inflammatory, topic. The wonderful thing about art is that many people can feel and see something different, something meaningful as that piece of art speaks to each individual. In all honesty, I actually like some of these pictures because they are so well done; many photographers are true artisans and can make a picture come alive. Some of these pictures do come alive and I would greatly appreciate them if they didn’t use our flag in such a manner that goes against the Code. Having the flag in the background in most, if not all, of these pictures would have conveyed the same message- not exactly the same, but would have at least followed the guidance of the Code.
There is a fundamental wrong in these pictures which I have already pointed out: the US Flag Code is the standard and deviation from the standard creates disgraceful use.
I truly hope that you reconsider creating a picture that reflects badly on our flag.
Meaning no disrespect to you nor anyone else and keeping in mind what I have written to you above, the Flag Code is not open to interpretation and feelings have absolutely nothing to do with it. Many who have never served or been associated with the military just do not grasp the idea of rules and standards that seemingly have no concrete value (unlike speed limits, etc.). I understand that and hope to educate those who are willing to see the point of this article.
No, I would not even dare think of reconsidering on having these pictures made. I was reading the comments above and I have to agree with the first one. How is it disrespectful when it is holding what we are fighting for? If you want to see disrespect of the flag look online and you will see many pictures of nude or barley dress women wrapped up in the flag. I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, but I do know that many military men have looked this up and say it was just sexy as could be. Why don’t you use this as an example of disrespect of the flag? I find this more disturbing than an infant!
I will not republish anything that is even remotely pornographic that is why I don’t have those pictures.
By your response, I see you have wavering standards. Which laws do you consider not worth following and others as sacred? What about the Ten Commandments? It’s the same principle. The Flag Code states certain guidelines for the American flag which should be followed. To blatantly flaunt those guidelines shows a lack of understanding for why they were developed in the first place.
The photo shows no disrespect to our flag. Before we get into this.. let me ask what is is your opinion on the flying of the flag up side down? I’ll let you define it.
Yes, this picture does disgrace our flag: the flag is not to be used to hold anything per the Flag Code. Period. It matters not that a Marine is holding a cute baby in the flag.
As for your question, the American flag is flown upside down to show distress. If one is in distress, one can fly it in such a way.
First I would like to thank you, Mr. Marshall, for your 20 yrs. of service with the US Air Force and your dedication to our nation and country. It is rare to see such dedication and your love of our country is evident. I live in Boston, which as I am sure you are well aware, was a recent recipient of a terrorist attack. Love of country, our flag and nation are strongly evidenced and felt here as well. I am writing in response to your post “Disgraceful use of the American Flag”. You reference Julia Carlson Baby Photography as the egregious offender of disgraceful use of the American flag. You also chastise the Marine in the “offending” picture taken by Julia Carlson and ask if he is unaware or if his training has failed him.
I acknowledge your reference of Flag Code, section 8 that states that “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.” and Flag Code, section 8h “The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.”
I would like to review Flag Code, section 8 and what is meant by the word disrespect. Disrespect is defined as “want of respect, courteous regard or reverence.” In this photograph the flag is enveloping an infant. The flag is not holding or enveloping garbage, trash or a common item. It is enveloping the very future and life of our nation. It holds the very reason why brave men like yourself and this Marine have put their lives at risk and why so many other men and women, and sometimes boys, have died for our nation. This flag holds what every civilian man and women would lay down their life for in a heartbeat. Our US flag is only conferred honor and respect because of all of our loved ones it represents. True, it represents liberty and justice to which we pledge allegiance. BUT FOR WHOM? It is for our children and those who wish to flee from oppression.
Mr. Marshall, please, just for a moment, disengage yourself from your flag code and drilling and open your eyes to what this photography truly represents.
The Marine in this picture is far from unaware, neither has his training failed him. He is keenly aware and acutely attuned to the reason he risked his life for his beloved nation and child. His wife and mother of this child was also astutely aware when she kissed her loved one good-by knowing that he may not return. Thankfully, he did return and in doing so he has made a statement so poignant that any reasonable person can palpably feel the respect, honor and love this soldier has for his infant, wife and country. Are you blinded and hardened by your regulations, Mr. Marshall?
In reference to Flag Code 8h, it is true that this flag is being used in an uncharacteristic manner. This technically violates this code if you abide by the letter of the law. Codes and regulations are important and should be followed however these regulations are in place so that respect and love are maintained for our flag and the nation it represents. This photograph displays and confers these sentiments in such a poignant way that a code book regulation will never begin to reach.
Lastly, may I leave you with this thought? If the Lord Jesus Christ, who deserves the honor, glory and highest respect of all creation enveloped children, might the US flag?
I thank you for your comment. Your eloquent words make one think. Where do we draw the line: just babies in beautiful pictures? Or how about horses, dogs, cats. Oh I know, we can include the flag draped on the ground because it’s over a grave. Those pictures are on this site for reference.
Ma’am, one can come up with all kinds of “special circumstances” that one would think would be reasonable and then we don’t have a standard, do we?
The fact is the Marine picture is absolutely beautiful and can bring a tear to the eye. But it goes against the established standard. The Flag Code does not allow for a “But this is such a beautiful idea.”
One last thing: I hope you did not mean to compare the American flag to be anything similar to out Lord and Savior.
Again, thank you for your comment and may God bless our nation and all who stand watch over her.
John K. Marshall
Your translation of government law and regulations is a bit off. The government is very particular when it comes to wording legal documents. For instance, there is a massive difference when using the words “should” and “shall.” If congress were to say, “Air Force members shall not wear jewelry while deployed,” then it means Air Force members are not allowed under any circumstance to wear jewelry while deployed. Now, if Congress were to say, “Air Force members should not wear jewelry while deployed,” then Air Force members could use their own judgement to decide if it would be befitting to wear jewelry. The federal flag code intentionally includes the phrase, “should not,” throughout the entire code manual in order to leave leeway for discretion. If you disagree, then read the following quote from the VA.gov website:
“In response to a Supreme Court decision which held that a state law prohibiting flag
burning was unconstitutional, Congress enacted the Flag Protection Act in 1989. It
provides that anyone who knowingly desecrates the flag may be fined and/or
imprisoned for up to one year. However, this law was challenged by the Supreme Court
in a 1990 decision that the Flag Protection Act violates the First Amendment free
You see, if it was unconstitutional, then the verbiage would be different and the participants could be fined for it. So, now that we have learned that it is not unconstitutional and is in fact, more of a guideline, it is neither wrong nor right. It does then, allow for, “But this is such a beautiful idea.”
Are you then saying that members of the US military cannot use their own judgement to decide how they would like to express their love for their country which they have sacrificed for? You see, the discussion turns into one about personal opinion and not about legality. So why would Julie (the photographer) remove the photo from her website? After all, your opinion is only shared by the extreme minority. How do I know that–because of the comments on the photograph on Julie’s website.
To answer your question, yes, I was a Lieutenant at the time. No, my training did not fail me, it did exactly what is was suppose to do in this matter–train me to understand that words have meaning and how to properly interpret government rules, regulations, and laws. By the way, one of the member’s of congress actually have our photo hanging in her office.
Thank you for the reply and your service to our great country. I do not attempt to translate law. I follow it. It matters not where your picture hangs, it is a beautiful picture. My argument still stands.