On Monday afternoon we received a call from a KRNV News 4 viewer who said a business near downtown Reno was flying a Mexican flag above an American flag . . . which is in fact illegal.
It also didn’t take long before the situation provoked a strong reaction. If you click on the video link in this story we will show you , unedited, what happened.
[Editors Note: The video mentioned in the story can be accessed on this page.]
[Editors Note: The relevant passage in the U.S. Code can be read here.]
The ACLU of Nevada is concerned about recent media reports that it is “illegal” to fly foreign flags over the U.S. flag.
While there is indeed a federal law regulating the display of the U.S. flag, that law is merely advisory and simply codifies standard government practice in displaying the American flag.
Several federal courts have examined this law and held that the flag rules are not mandatory and cannot be enforced. Indeed, if the federal flag rules were mandatory, they would clearly violate the First Amendment, which protects every American’s right to speak and express themselves, including their choice of flag to display.
In 1989, the Supreme Court held that we even have the right to burn our own flag, which had been outlawed by 48 states. Our robust and meaningful democracy is built upon our First Amendment, which protects our right to express ourselves even when—indeed, particularly when—that expression is distasteful or unpopular.
We at the ACLU wholeheartedly support the First Amendment rights of all, and this includes the right of the press to publish stories as they see fit. Of course, this right necessarily means that sometimes the media may get it wrong.
However, we urge the media to take the opportunity to correct misinformation, especially about our rights and the criminal law.
The media is a powerful tool in informing the public, and this is an opportunity to tell the world that the First Amendment is alive and well, and protects everyone’s right to fly whatever flag they wish on their property.