Can a foreign flag be displayed alone (no US flag) on a private residence

Discussion in 'Other Flags' started by ashaklv, Apr 18, 2010.

  1. ashaklv

    ashaklv New Member

    To commemorate with fellow Poles during the time of mourning after the Polish President and his wife and 95 other officials died in a plane crush, we displayed the Polish national flag with a black ribbon on our house. It was important to us and especially our family and friends in Poland that we do that. We didn’t want to install another flag pole holder so there was no American flag displayed along the Polish flag. Did we violate the rules?

    GCLARK New Member

    The U.S. Flag should probably be displayed too, but it seems to me that in the manner you are displaying the flag, with memorial to such a tragedy, that it is okay for a period of time. I am know expert though.
  3. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    The United States Flag Code addresses the flying of the USA flag either alone or in conjunction with other flags. If you aren't flying the US flag, then you are not in conflict with the Code. Note that the code does say that you shouldfly the flag on certain holidays, so I conclude that you can fly the Polish flag alone except on Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc., etc., when the US flag should be flown insead.

  4. ashaklv

    ashaklv New Member

    Thank you for the helpful information. We found the rules on the Internet and we didn’t think we violated the code. We understood that it was OK to display a foreign flag as long as it was not instead of the US flag. Since there is no reason to display a US flag due to no national holiday, for example – we decided we were fine. An older gentleman living on our street (of Polish descent no less, and a lawyer to boot) told us that what we did was illegal. I needed some reassurance that it wasn’t :0) Thank you.
  5. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    It is certainly not illegal. I fly flags of other nations almost every day at my house, both with and without the US flag. I think that your lawyer friend needs to check his references!

    I would also like to express our deepest sympathies for the recent terrible tragedy. As we all know, Poland and the United States have a long shared history, and an event such as this is a blow to both countries.

    Peter Ansoff
  6. ashaklv

    ashaklv New Member

    Thank you for the sympathy. It is a terrible tragedy.
    [FONT='Calibri','sans-serif']As to my lawyer neighbor, he does indeed need to check his references ;0)[/FONT]
  7. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Your neighbor may be citing state law with respect to flag display. Recall that the United States Flag Code only has the force of law when the provisions are adopted by the states (or imposed by Congress as in the case of the District of Columbia.) My wife did the research for a book published by the National Flag Foundation titled "Stars, Stripes, and Statutes" that covered all the legal restrictions on flying foreign national flags, "red flags," flags of anarchy, flags displayed on public buildings, etc., etc. A number of state provisions are summarized at the Flag Of The World web site:

    Flag laws in the United States

    If you are in New Jersey, your neighbor is correct:

    New Jersey prohibits the display of a flag of a foreign country unless accompanied by a U.S. flag of at least equal dimensions.

  8. ashaklv

    ashaklv New Member

    Thank you for the information. I am in Nevada. Is New Jersey the only state that requires American flag along with the foreign?
  9. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    I wonder if the New Jersey law has ever actually been invoked, and what the outcome was. The 1989 and 1990 Supreme Court decisions about flag desecration were based on the idea that you cannot outlaw flag misuse as a form of political expression. Displaying a foreign flag could certainly be seen as political expression, but I don't know if the same principle would apply.

    The "equal dimensions" provision is also interesting. Commercial US flags are typically 3:5 or 4:6, but other countries' flags have different proportions -- the British and Canadian flags are officially 1:2, for example. Would it be illegal to fly a 3 x 5 US flag with a 3 x 6 British flag?

    Peter Ansoff
  10. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    So outside of New Jersey, the general guidelines seem to be -

    Don't fly a foreign flag from an official public area - government building, school, police, fire, park, etc.

    Don't fly a flag that could reasonably be construed as 'hateful' or lead to civil unrest.

    Other than that - we the people are left to the freedom of personal expression, so if you feel strongly in mourning Poland's late president as the case may be, then more power to you.
  11. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Remember when Richard Nixon visited the People's Republic of China in the early 1970's? They displayed two large PRC and USA flags in the official proportions. PRC was 2:3 and the US was 10:19. How'd they make them equal? :confused: They made sure both flags had the same area: the PRC flag looked a little taller/fatter, and the USA flag was longer/skinnier.

    What I found equally amusing was the music at that venue: the orchestra of traditional Chinese instruments was playing "Home, Home on the Range." To imagine what that was like, just remember one of the closing scenes in the movie "A Christmas Story." (The one where the kid wants a Red Ryder BB Gun.) The staff of the Chinese restaurant tries to sing Deck the Halls: "Fah Rah Rah Rah Rah, Rah Rah, Rah, Raaaaah!":D

    By the way, I concur with Peter that the provision in the New Jersey law is not only unenforceable, I would be surprised if anyone has ever been accused and/or tried for that "crime." Any NJ members of the Forum want to try it out for us and see if you get arrested? :eek: Pick something that a good lawyer can weasle you out of, like the flag of Thailand or Costa Rica, both are just stripes of red, white, and blue and you could claim you were just flying some patriotic bunting! :D

  12. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    I suppose the equal dimensions thing could be easily handled by going through Annin for example. IIRC, they have the contract for the UN center flags, and as such try to make them all standardized dimensions (4'x6' for the famous outdoor display) and 3'x5' for the ones used inside meeting rooms. I seem to recall Annin does all their flags except in cases where a nation adopts a new flag or anew member joins before Annin has the ability to have designed a suitable flag that is accepted by the nation in question. In that case the nation can furnish their own flag on a temporary basis, and that has led to some unusual examples of proportions.

    I know I have the miniature 'tabletop' UN flag set by Annin (I use it to decorate the ledge around the stairwell in my house), and those flags are all scaled to 4"x6" except one. (Yes, even the square Swiss flag is made into a rectangle) Nepal is the oddball due to its shape,but I think if you measure the total fly in the longest part you get 4" and the hoist is 6". So it kinda looks funky when you look at it. I bought a 3'x5' Nepal flag from a web based flag dealer and I know it looks kind of wierd proportionally.

    I just measured my full size Nepal flag and it is resized using the method I stated above.

    Also, it seems most mass market flag sellers that deal to the USA size their flags in that proportion. So, for those residents of New Jersey, getting two identically sized flags is not the issue, even if they may not be to the flag's nations specifications. What with G-Spec flags, you may even say the consumer market US flags are not to specifications. Of course that does mean those New Jersey residents need to flagstaffs of equal height, which adds a little bit of expense, inconvenience and planning.
  13. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    The book "Stars, Stripes, and Statutes" that Nick mentioned is a very interesting little publication. I don't think that it's currently in print, but there are some copies available on ABE Books at very reasonable prices.

    A few of the more interesting oddities are:

    New Hampshire Law: "No person shall sell or offer to sell miniature flags in a public place. However, the mayor or alderman may authorize the sale of miniature flags by certain veterans organizations or other patriotic or fraternal groups chartered in the State." Were they trying to protect veterans groups from being undersold?

    Rhode Island Law: "A person who willfully displays a flag, other than the U.S. flag, as symbolic of the U.S. government or of a form of government proposed to be superior to that of the U.S. by its adherents shall be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both." Hmm. Could the "Tea Party" folks be prosecuted under that statute? Some of them seem to want to replace our current government with one that the "propose to be superior!"

    North Dakota Law "A person is guilty of a Class B misdomeanor if he carries in a parade or exhibits or displays in a public place a flag other than the U.S. flag, a State flag or the flag of a friendly foreign nation." All kinds of questions about that one!

    Oklahoma Law: "A person commits a misdomeanor, punishable by a fine of $50-%500, imprisonment for 30 days - 6 months, or both, if he displayes a flag on or over public property, except roads, stadiums or arenas, unless it is the U.S. flag, the flag of a nation once having dominion over the State, the State flag, an official municipal flag, the Boy Scouts flag, the Girl Scouts flag, the American Red Cross flag, or a flag approved by the governing body of the public property." Among other things, the reference to the Red Cross flag is interesting. It is actually illegal under the Geneva Convention to display the Red Cross flag unless you are associated with the International Red Cross or one of its national affiliates.

    The bottom line, of course, is that most of these statues would probably be ruled unconstitutional if anyone ever tried to enforce them.

    Peter Ansoff
  14. emoryd

    emoryd New Member

    So flying a flag of the UK is acceptable along( without an american flag net to it or on top of it ? ) I live in California in a control enviroment ( CC& R'S ) it doesn't say you can't !
  15. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    1) There is no Federal law prohibiting the flying of a foreign national flag alone without the USA flag. You will have to check California laws to see if they place restrictions on flying foreign flags.

    2) In any event, you may NOT fly the US flag ABOVE the Union Jack on the same pole - that is prohibited under international practice (except when flying the flag of a victorious nation over the flag of a conquered foe.)

    3) There is a federal law that says local neighborhood or apartment covenants and restrictions may NOT prevent you from flying the US flag. However, they may prohibit you from flying anything else. If your covenants are silent on the matter, fly the Union Jack if you want.

  16. emoryd

    emoryd New Member

    Thanks for the information, being a Board Member here at the club , we ( Board ) get some of the strangest issues to try and sort out , thanks again

  17. Bergschlawiner

    Bergschlawiner New Member

    I have seen quite a few homes and small businesses that have flown a foreign flag without the US flag, in most cases they were Swiss flags where lots of ethnic Swiss lived, also seen some Bavarian flags which are in color and not to be confused with the German flag. MOst of these places were unmistakenly "ethnic" with other things around showing their ethnic heritage. No one ever go upset about this. Almost forgot all the green Irish flags I have seen on Irish homes back east.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2010
  18. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Since most state and local laws restricting the use of flags have been ruled as unconstitutional infringement on first amendment rights, law enforcement officials aren't going to bother anyone flying flags in a manner violating the flag code.:(

    However, if your neighbors take offense at a flag you are flying there will be he#%$ to pay! :eek: Most of the controversies that make the news relate to flags being flown in subdivisions that have restrictive covenants, and neighbors who have too much time on their hands.

  19. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    I fly foreign national flags all the time here at the house. I keep a spreadsheet of nations' national days and such, and fly their flag on the appropriate day. I have never had any negative comments from anyone about this, and in fact I've had a couple of complements. Our former neighbors were Korean, and they were pleased and excited when we flew the Korean flag on their holidays.

    Protocol wise, my biggest problem has been how to observe independence day for the five nations that made up the old Central American Republic (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador). They all celebrate their independence on the same day (September 15), and I only have three flagpoles.

    Best to all,

    Peter Ansoff
  20. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    I have to agree that in practice, so long as you don't like under a homeowners association, you are pretty clear to do whatever you want. Just bear in mind not to go out of your way to tick off your neighbors, for example if your have a next door neighboor who is staunchly opposed to nation X, then flying Nation X's flag may not be the best thing to do if you want to maintain happy relations.

    As you indicate, I think most people take it in stride when you fly a flag to honor heritage, ethnicity, or a nations significant events. It is interesting that you mention Bavaria, as I am about to fly that one in honor of the big Munich Oktoberfest.

    (Not to toot my own horn, but I will be at said Munich Oktoberfest this year, so I will leave the Bavarian flag up while I am away as a subtle indicator as to where I am. (Those who know me will get it)

    I hope to pick up flags from Germany, Austria and Hungary while I am overseas to add to the collection. I won't go on a hunting expedition for them, but if I happen to see one at a decent price, I'll pick it up. Our city just had its Oktoberfest today, and one of the booths was selling German flags (the ones with the Eagle, or the State Flag). I picked one up to add to the collection.

    See photos of the Flags of Bavaria and the Germany "State Flag" attached.

    Attached Files:

Share This Page