The Proper Standard: No Flags on Confections

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The Proper Standard authors Hunter and Ross Simmons

By Hunter and Ross Simmons

hile there is no greater symbol of freedom worldwide than “Old Glory,” the authors believe that its patriotic display is only mildly more inconvenient, but far more reverent and appropriate, if done compliant with federal law and consistent with the Rules of Flag Etiquette.

Question: Hey…here’s one for you… is it disrespectful to decorate a July 4th cake with the flag?

Answer: It is, of course, entirely fitting that patriotic themes are ubiquitous with Independence Day. The significance of the date and one’s enthusiasm for their homeland are customarily and rightfully accentuated with dress, décor and like trappings in reds, whites and blues. They typically include various stars and stripes designs, among other symbols intended to evoke sentimental thoughts of our country and its auspicious history. Indeed, the American flag is often displayed at commemorative venues on this date, consistent with the Flag Code, a practice we ardently support.

While patriotic dress and décor is not the subject of federal legislation, however, display of the American flag most certainly is. “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.” Flag Code Section 8. That brings us to our reader’s question.

Aside from that generality, Section 8 also provides an array of specific examples of “disrespectful” activity to guide us in our approach to this use of the American flag. Section 8(i) says that a flag “should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard” (emphasis added). Based on that, we know for certain that the napkins at this July 4th event cannot bear the image of the American flag.

But what about the cake? Certainly, Flag Code Section 8(i) instructs that although mere patriotic accessories can be discarded at the end of the event indiscriminately, summarily and uneventfully, the flag of the United States of America or its “impressed” image cannot be. Hence, drawing on that, our view is that the American flag’s depiction on a cake, the consumption of which by its nature is traditionally unceremonious, and by its nature “designed for temporary use and discard,” would be an inappropriate use. If you wish to maintain a patriotic theme for your cake, that’s fantastic—opt for red, white and blue themes, and feel comfortable using stars and stripes designs. Compliance with the Flag Code requires that you not depict the American flag itself.

Authors Ross Simmons and his son, Hunter, are life members of the National Eagle Scout Association, and Ross is Scoutmaster at Imperial’s Troop 4070. Have a question of Flag Etiquette? Please submit your questions or photos to submit@properstandard.com. (By submitting, you’re licensing content for use.)