[Sad, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal appears to have taken down this story and photo] Photo by John Gurzinski from the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Inside Thunderbirds Hangar at Nellis AFB, Airman 1st Class Michael Thayer, left, and Senior Airman David Prye demonstrate how to fold a U.S. flag.
How did I miss this? The Las Vegas (Nevada) Review-Journal carried a story on July 4, 2006, on the Air Force’s efforts to replace the old, unofficial and misleading flag folding ceremony, with a new one. It has the script for the new ceremony.
The newspaper said:
Capt. Isham Barrett, Air Force action officer on Honor Guard policy, said the new script was developed because reference to the flag in the U.S. code “does not associate anything with any fold of the flag.”
“We don’t want to force a belief on somebody,” he said.
Barrett said the decision to develop a standardized script wasn’t prompted by someone complaining about religious connotations. “We can’t find anything in our files with regard to complaints,” he said.
Nevertheless, Christopher J. Andersen, an Army sergeant and member of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, wrote a letter in 2003, asking the U.S. Air Force Academy to remove the unofficial script from its Web site.
“In order to ensure this religious flag-folding ceremony is not portrayed as an official, government-sponsored flag-folding ceremony, I ask you to remove it from your .gov site,” wrote Andersen.
Andersen, who could not be reached last week, noted in his letter that the Air Force Academy removed the old script from its Web site after he complained.
Air Force leaders later set out to develop a script based on history rather than one that could be interpreted as contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Combined with the Free Exercise Clause — “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — they prohibit endorsement of a national religion or a preference for one over another. They also preclude dominance of religion over nonreligious philosophies, according to a 1994 Supreme Court majority opinion.
The new standardized script based on history was approved by Air Force leaders in July 2005 and first appeared in revised Honor Guard protocol manuals in January.
Three cheers for the Air Force (yes, I’m biased, for family reasons).
Tip of the old scrub brush to Linda Case.
Update October 22, 2014: The new, Air Force-approved script for a flag folding ceremony is at the Betsy Ross site. Use it in good patriotic spirit, and in the spirit of accurate history.