USMC First Sergeant (retired)
USAF Senior Master Sergeant (retired)
Pastor, United Methodist Church (Ret.)
The July 4 edition of the Journal had a page that included a 13-fold piece, which means behind the folds. Let me start by saying that there is no official meaning of the creases when folding the American flag. As a young U.S. Marine in the 1960s, I was on several flag-draped burial details. During my 21 year career, I have folded flags at embassies, consulates and several US military installations. Our nation’s flag was folded, period.
An online search for the folding of the American flag revealed “meanings for the 13 folds” from all kinds of groups and organizations. The VFW has one, the American Legion has one, even the Boy Scouts have one. There is no reference in The Journal as to the source of the article. To infer that there is an official religious significance to the pleats is misleading and inconsistent with our nation’s history.
The article contained multiple references to God and Christianity in connection with the founding of our country. The 1st Amendment gives citizens the right to exercise their beliefs, but it also states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of any religion.” So in the folding of the flag and the meaning of the folds, who is God referring to? The citizens of our country practice many different religions, and none.
Often people, politicians and even our Supreme Court will refer to our founding fathers. Allow me to name a few. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Christianity is not and was not part of the common law. In all countries and at all times, the priest has been hostile to freedom. John Adams wrote: “The government of the United States is in no way based on the Christian religion. James Madison wrote, “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed.”
It is clear that our founding fathers saw the need to separate government and religion. Don’t get me wrong, American citizens can practice whatever religion they want, it’s part of the Constitution. And anyone who folds the American flag can add whatever meaning they want to the folds. However, it should be clearly stated that this is NOT an official, government-sponsored service. The only official direction in folding our flag is that “it be done with reverence”.