This week, we are again blessed to appreciate our freedom and liberties on Independence Day. A part of many of our celebrations this year will certainly include display of our American flag near homes, buildings, farms and businesses.
There is a series of federal laws initially passed in 1942 that govern the display of our American flag. That series of laws is commonly called the “Flag Code.”
Typically, most of the Flag Code has not been enforced. Therefore, the Flag Code has become similar to a handbook on flag etiquette. Nonetheless, some aspects of the Flag Code have been enforced, including state and federal prohibitions on flag burning or destruction other than through formal ceremonies.
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law that prohibited the burning of the flag. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that prohibiting the burning of the flag conflicted with and was overruled by the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
The most recent news regarding flags and the display of flags has involved homeowner associations.
Although not very common in our part of Ohio, homeowner associations are community groups established before homes are built in a particular subdivision or neighborhood. The homeowner association is intended to create and enforce rules to ensure consistency and upkeep of all of the homes in the subdivision or neighborhood so that the values of all homes will remain consistent.
The issue regarding homeowner associations and flags dealt with whether a homeowner association could prohibit the flying of the flag in its subdivision or neighborhood. Beginning in the late 1990s, several states began to consider laws that would stop homeowner associations from prohibiting the display of the flag.
Since 2003, Ohio has had a law that limits the ability of homeowner associations to preclude displays of the flag. However, Ohio law does require that the flag being flown have some consistency with the size and character of the buildings in that subdivision or neighborhood.
Notably, the Ohio law also provides the same display protections for the Ohio flag and for the national league of families POW/MIA flag.
In 2005, the federal government followed Ohio’s law with passage of the “Freedom to Display American Flag Act of 2005.” The federal law generally precludes homeowner associations from restricting or preventing homeowners from displaying the flag on certain property if the homeowner owns and lives on that property.
It is hard to forecast this week’s weather, but if it rains, the flag should be taken down unless it is being flown 24 hours a day and is made of material resistant to rain and other precipitation. If the flag is being flown 24 hours a day, it should be illuminated from dusk to dawn.
Ohio and federal law may not require the strictest respect for our flag, but the countless sacrifices of our veterans should make it clear to all of us that respecting the flag is the least we can do as we celebrate this Independence Day.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.