The Volokh Conspiracy notes the arrest of an Asheville, North Carolina couple for improper flag display — they flew the U.S. flag upside down (a universal sign of distress), and with protest notes attached to it.
The newspaper also notes that the flag desecration statute appears not to have been used since the Vietnam War era (anybody care to guess which political views got cited?) . A local fireworks sales stand in the area displayed U.S. flags in violation of the Flag Code near July 4, but while news abstracts appear to show the stand was cited for a violation of the sign code, there is no indication it was cited for the flag desecration code.
We need to amend the Flag Code, to authorize flag displays that have become popular recently, such as shirts that resemble the flag, flag decals in autos, flag bumper stickers, and other displays that technically violate the Flag Code — unless, of course, we want to try to criminalize innocent attempts to honor the flag. Flag desecration cases almost always have a political component, however, and such prosecutions should generally be suspect under the First Amendment — don’t you agree?
If someone has the details of the fireworks stand case near Asheville, please send them along — was the stand in the same county as Mark and Deborah Kuhn?
Update: The Mountain Xpress story carries a slightly different tone, identifying the Kuhns as “activists,” and featuring interviews of eyewitnesses to the arrests.
Other improper flag displays, below the fold.
Improper display at an Operation Rescue/Operation Save America rally in Wichita, Kansas, in 2001. The U.S. flag should be to its right, and not lower than other flags (this example does not qualify for the shipboard, religious services exception).
Here’s a display that might be interpreted as flag desecration, though it seems clear that is not the intent of the creator of the item, on sale from Aspencountry.com. Would such a device be contrary to the flag desecration law in North Carolina?
Below is a technically incorrect display of a flag by the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid on May 29, 2006. The flag displayed is probably too large to be displayed correctly aboard ship. Would such a display be illegal in Asheville? Should it be contrary to the Flag Code at all?
Fourth of July exhibit in Boston, July 4, 2001; photo from Habeeb.com. Notice the flag against the wall is backwards.
Kids wearing the U.S. flag, contrary to U.S. Flag Code; Wyandotte, Michigan, Fourth of July Parade, 2002. Photo from Habeeb.com.
Kid Rock performing at the Super Bowl — few protested his desecration of the flag (ripping it, wearing it, disposing of it in an undignified manner) and this performance is best remembered for Janet Jackson’s bared breast (in a world of prudes, so many moral infractions to police — which gets priority?). (The photo is uncredited from my source.)
President Bush signing a U.S. flag during the 2004 election, which would be a violation of the Asheville ordinance as it was applied to the Kuhns, I believe.