Etiquette on Flying the Christian & American Flag

The Bible does not give explicit instructions on flag-flying etiquette.
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Some Christian churches debate whether it is proper for the Christian flag, which they consider a symbol of God's authority, to take a position of inferiority to the American flag as stated in the U.S. Flag Code. Rev. Steve Anderson of Christian Life Center in Riverside, California, relates the story of a young minister, James Russell Pollock, who in 1938 resolved congregational conflict over the proper etiquette on flying the Christian and American flag by developing the Christian Flag Code, subsequently adopted by the annual conference of United Methodists. The code contradicts the U.S. Flag Code, thus fueling an ongoing controversy among some Christians who feel the cross of their Savior should never take second place to any earthly authority.

1 Christian Flag Code

The Christian flag code states that the Christian flag should be placed either at floor level, outside the railing to the right of the congregation, or on the right side of the altar, pulpit or choir as they face the congregation. When displayed with the American flag, it should be on the same level, to the right of the American flag and dips only to the cross at the altar.

2 U.S. Flag Code

U.S. flag code unequivocally states that the American flag is always to be placed to the right or above any other flag. The only exception is for naval ships at sea that may fly the Christian flag above the American flag on the ship during onboard church services.

3 Interpretation of the Codes

Trying to mesh these two competing codes has caused much debate over the interpretation of preeminent place. Some equate the emblem of their faith with their respect for God and His authority. So they feel it is not right to give the place of more honor to the American flag than to God. Others point out that Romans 13:1-7 instructs Christians to obey their governing authorities. As the Christian flag is an unofficial banner, without any force of law behind enforcing any uniform standards regarding its use, it really comes down to each organization’s interpretation as to how to apply the codes within its own buildings and events.

4 Putting the Code into Practice

Independence Hall Association suggests a solution that may satisfy the requirements of both codes and the consciences of those who feel strongly on the matter: “Place the US flag at the far left (congregation's perspective) and the Christian flag to the right, front, of the congregation and outside of the communion railing. Both flags should be at the same height and of approximately the same size.”

Tamara Christine has written more than 900 articles for a variety of clients since 2010. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in applied linguistics and an elementary teaching license. Additionally, she completed a course in digital journalism in 2014. She has more than 10 years experience teaching and gardening.