Articles

It turns out that bringing a flag to Arlington Cemetery can get you a year in jail

Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.


Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.

Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America's Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of "any placard, banner, flag, or similar device."

Lizzy Yaggy visiting the Arlington National Cemetery gravesite of her father. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Flags are permitted, however, if they are "part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony."

Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.

"If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it," Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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