You will find flags in many American churches. Some of the flags are from countries to which the church sends missionaries, but the two main flags you will find in a typical American church are the American flag and the Christian flag. There is some controversy over the correct way to display these flags in the same location. But there are clear, if not enforceable, protocols for displaying both flags.
There is a two-fold controversy surrounding the display of the American flag in a place of worship. First, some people are offended by the presence of the American flag in any location. To some, the American flag is a symbol of oppression and should not be displayed with the Christian flag at all. Second, others are offended by having the Christian flag take an inferior position to the American flag, though they have no problem with the American flag.
Onstage Inside a Worship Center
According to the Flag Protocols, the American flag should take the position of preeminence on any stage. On the stage, it is the speaker or preacher who is considered to be "bearing the flag." The American flag is presented to the speaker's right side (audience's left). The Christian flag is considered to be "junior" to the American flag and is displayed on the speaker's left-hand side (audience's right). Any other flags presented on stage---for example, the flags of the nations in which the church supports missionaries---should occupy the space behind the speaker or preacher.
On the Floor in a Worship Center
When the flags occupy the space on the floor of the auditorium, the flags should be to the front and on the same respective sides as the flags onstage. Flags of other nations (again representing countries where the church has missionaries) should be aligned on either side of the auditorium in positions "junior" to that of both the American flag and the Christian flag.
Outside the Church
Outside the church, the building is considered to be "bearing" the flag, so the American flag should be on the building's right side, facing out. The Christian flag should be on the building's left, facing out. These two flags should never be on the same flagpole; they should be on separate poles. If the church has flags of other nations, the poles must not be taller than the pole on which the American flag flies.
With the American flag in preeminence and the Christian flag next to it, there are protocols for other flags. Some denominations (Disciples of Christ, for example) have their own flags, which they use instead of the Christian flag. If the church uses a denominational flag in place of the Christian flag, the denominational flag will be in the Christian flag position. If a denominational flag is used in addition to the Christian flag, it may be placed underneath on the same pole.
Other flags, including the state flag or a city flag, may be placed underneath the American Flag on the same pole or in a "junior" position on a different one. Other nations' flags must never be placed above the American flag; doing so would be a serious violation of Flag Code.
- American Flag image by dwight9592 from Fotolia.com