Should the US Flag Be Lowered For Celebrities?

My heart goes out the family and friends concerning the recent death of singer Whitney Houston.  And I don’t blame fans for wanting to pay tribute to her, however, I do question New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision to lower the US flag in honor of Houston’s death.

Many people across the nation have chided in on the topic and most of the chatter seems to be focused on Houston’s use of drugs and pills and whether or not the flag should be lowered for a drug user.

Gov Christie has defended his decision to lower the flag to half-staff in honor of Whitney Houston saying,

“There are many contributions that you can make to our state that merit this honor upon your death.  Some of them are political. Some of them are military. Some of them are other avenues of public service, like police officers, firefighters, and others. And some of them are cultural.”

In my eyes, that has nothing to do with the issue.  The real issue that everyone is overlooking is the US Flag Code and what it says about flying a flag at half-staff in honor of an individual.

According to United States Code, Title 35, Chapter 10, Section 175, Paragraph M the code reads,

175. Position and manner of display

 (m) The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff. The flag shall be flown at half-staff thirty days from the death of the President or a former President; ten days from the day of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.

Please take note that nowhere in the US Flag Code does it say that the flag may be lowered to half-staff for celebrities or other people.  To do so is not only a violation of the Flag Code but it takes away from the significance of when it is properly flown at half-staff.

I can’t tell you how many times I see the US flag flown at half-staff for some local person.  Not to take away from that person, but that is not a valid reason for lowering the flag.  There was one time I asked why the flag at the public library was flying at half-staff and was told that it was by order of the governor.  When I asked the governor’s office for a reason, I was told that a close family member of the governor had passed away.  I informed the lady in the governor’s office that this was not a valid reason according to the US Flag Code and she called me a few choice insensitive terms and hung up on me.  May I add that we have a Democrat for a Governor who has repeatedly demonstrated that he has no regard or respect for the US flag, the US constitution or the people of this commonwealth.

When I went to public school, we were taught flag etiquette and the flag code.  It was taught to us because it was something special and meant a great deal to our nation and the people.  That has always been instilled with me.  I respect the US flag and still keep to the etiquette and code I was taught.

One of my most prized possessions is a 48 star flag that flew aboard a US Navy ship during World War 2.  The flag flew at the battles of Bougainville and Saipan.  It was the flag from the ship my dad was on and when they moth balled the ship in 1946, the captain presented that flag to my dad, an enlisted man, for his service to the Navy, the ship and the captain.

Having said all that, I truly believe that Gov. Christie’s decision to lower the flag for Whitney Houston is wrong and is in violation of the US Flag Code and that he believes that his opinion ranks higher than US law.