Vol. XX No. 1 — January 1942

The Flag in Lodge

Every American Mason loves and reveres the flag of the United States.

Every American Mason desires to show that love and reverence in respectful and reverent treatment of the symbol of his nation. Those who fail do so through ignorance, not intention; through failure to act more often than by improper actions.

This Bulletin is intended only to suggest respectful and reverent treatment to honor the Stars and Stripes in lodge, so that those who love the flag may show that love in the correct and Masonic manner.[1]

It goes without saying that a flag should be displayed in every open Masonic lodge. A Majority of grand lodges have so legislated; where no legislation is a mandate, brethren display the flag for love of it.

Especially in these days when American unity of thought of our country and its course in world events is so important, should the flag be as much a part of an open lodge as altar and great lights, charter, and aprons.

All Masons are familiar with the etiquette which dictates the treatment of the Bible. It is to be opened and closed slowly and reverently. With the square and compasses it is to be alone on the altar; it is never to be beyond the view of the master.

There is also an etiquette in the treatment of the flag which has all the sanction of law. The flag should never be draped over the altar or around it. Not even the flag can add to the glory of the Great Light; not even the Great Light should rest upon the flag.

There are several ways in which the flag may be displayed in lodge. If used alone, it should be on a staff, at the right hand of the worshipful master in the East. It may be displayed flat against the wall in the East, with the stars to the left as the audience sees them. If the flag is hung upright, the stars should be on the left of the brethren.

If two flags are displayed — border states frequently have Canadian visitors and in pretty and brotherly compliment use the British flag as well as the Stars and Stripes — the flag of the United States is at the master’s right, the other flag on the left of the American flag. If there are several flags on staffs, the American flag is not the center flag of the line of flags, but is on the extreme right of the line.

The flag should never be draped over, on, about anything. If rosettes and drapes are wanted for decorations, make them of red, white and blue bunting — of the flag, never. The only object on which the flag ever may be draped is the casket in which lies a serviceman or woman or a Government official. Then it must be displayed flat (not draped or folded) with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag, of course, must never be lowered into a grave, or allowed to touch the earth.

If the lodge is in mourning, the flag should NOT be half staffed; mourning maybe indicated by streamers of black attached to the staff. Only on fixed, not movable, staffs, may the flag be half-staffed to indicate mourning. It need hardly be said that the flag should never be used on a ceiling, or as a part or the whole of a costume.

The flag is never to be dipped in lodge. No man is great enough to have the flag dipped to him; the greatest of men humbly yet proudly salute the flag.

It is not essential, but it is decidedly worthwhile, to have the flag ceremoniously received in lodge. The ceremony should occur immediately after opening, and before any business is transacted.

Reception ceremonies may be simple or very elaborate. Small lodges with few members in attendance, obviously cannot easily stage the same ceremony as may be appropriate and easy for a large lodge with full attendance.

Three which are successfully used are outlined herewith.

1. Simple Ceremony.

The master calls up the lodge and directs the senior deacon to present the colors at the altar. The senior deacon does so, standing with staffed flag held before him, facing the East. The master asks the brethren to join him in repeating the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation, under God indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.[2]

During the pledge the brethren stand with right hands over hearts, except veterans[3] or such as may be in uniform, who may stand at right-hand salute. The practice of standing with right-hand outstretched toward the flag is common, but not in keeping with the etiquette of the flag as practiced by the United States government.

The master then orders the senior deacon to present the flag in the East. The flag is borne to the East and the staff slowly and reverently lowered into its socket. The lodge is then seated.

2. A More Elaborate Ceremony.

The master raps up the lodge and commands the master of ceremonies (or marshal) to assemble the deacons and stewards, proceed to the tiler’s door and receive the flag. The flag is outside the door, borne by whatever brother may be so honored, escorted by an even number of brethren; two, four, six, eight or more. If brethren in uniform are available, it is a courtesy to the flag to ask them to escort it. The procession forms at the door, the master of ceremonies in front; the deacons next, followed by the stewards, followed by two lines of escort, with the flag held aloft by its honored bearer between the lines. The lines break to right and left at the altar and the flag is there presented. Following this, either the Pledge of Allegiance is taken, or The American’s Creed is read or recited. It is unwise to attempt to have all brethren attempt to recite The American’s Creed, as it is too long easily to be memorized by many.

With the brethren still at salute, one verse of “My Country ’Tis of Thee” (“America”), or the “Star-Spangled Banner,” or “America the Beautiful,” or “God Bless America” is sung by all, after which the flag, still under its escort, but with deacons and stewards remaining at the altar, is carried to the East and the staff lowered into the socket.

An Elaborate Ceremony.

The master rises and addresses the lodge:

“My brethren, we are about to receive and place in the East the flag of the United States. Our ceremony will have little meaning and less worth if it proceeds not from our hearts as well as from our lips. As the red, the white, the blue are paraded in these sacred confines let all present be reminded that we meet in liberty, practice our rites in safety, and worship God according to the dictates of our conscience because of that flag. It means America — and America means all of us. It means liberty — and liberty is our greatest possession. It means justice — and justice is not only one of our cardinal virtues but the foundation stone on which free men erect their lives. It means opportunity — and without opportunity men are slaves.

“Greatest of all, it means freedom to be, to do, to think, to dare, to live, to love, and to worship God.

"Without the flag we are not a nation. With the flag we are the owners of man’s most precious heritage — the right to call ourselves Americans.

“Let us honor the flag in our hearts.”

As he finishes the tiler’s door is opened and the flag is carried into the room under escort as in the second ceremony. It is brought to the altar, a patriotic song is sung, the Pledge of Allegiance given.

The master then commands “Parade the flag.” To martial music the escort bears the flag thrice around the lodge room, while choir or the brethren sing some patriotic song, not the national anthem; that should only be sung while standing motionless.

The flag is then brought to East & halted in front of the master. Bearer & escort face the West. Some brother with a good voice reads The American’s Creed, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or other short patriotic selection.

The master then says: “Man before engaging in any great or important undertaking should always invoke the blessing of Deity. Nothing more important will ever take place in our lives than paying honor to the flag and those great principles for which it stands. Let us, then, ask the Great Architect for light. Brother Master of Ceremonies, conduct the Brother Chaplain to the altar.”

At the altar the chaplain prays:

“Almighty Father of us all, humbly we ask Thy blessing upon this symbol of our land, our homes, our liberties. More especially we beseech Thee to open our eyes that we may more fully enshrine within our hearts the heritage which is ours, the value of our liberties, the glory of that symbol before which we bow in reverence only less than that in which we kneel to Thee.

“Suffer us all to pledge anew in our hearts, as we have pledged with our lips, an undying devotion to the flag which stands for the America we love. Amen.”

When the chaplain has been escorted to his station, the master says: “This honored flag, symbol of our country, blessed by Almighty God, honored the world around, is placed in the East of this lodge as a solemn pledge that we, Americans all, honor it above all else save only God. Brother Color Bearer, you will enshrine the flag in the East.”

Then flag is lowered into its socket and the master seats the lodge.

That all may have easy access to the Americans Creed it is printed herewith:

I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign nation of many sovereign states; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies.

Written by William Tyler Page, a descendant of President Tyler and of Carter Braxton, one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, this Creed was the result of a contest conducted by the press of the nation in 1916-17. The winning creed won a one thousand dollar prize given by the City of Baltimore. The judges were distinguished officials, authors, governors of states and other dignitaries.

It is interesting to note the derivation of the phrases which form this creed. The Congressional Record of April 13, 1918, sets forth:

“The United States of America” — Preamble, Constitution of the United States.

“A government of the people, by the people, for the people” — Preamble, Constitution of the United States; Daniel Webster’s speech in the Senate, January 26, 1830; Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address.

“Whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed” — Thomas Jefferson, in Declaration of Independence.

“A democracy in a republic” — James Madison, in The Federalist, No. 10; Article X, of the Amendments to the Constitution.

“A sovereign Nation of many sovereign states” — “E pluribus unum,” great seal of the United States; Article VI, of the Constitution.

“One and inseparable” — Webster’s speech in the Senate; January 26,1830.

“Established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes” — Declaration of Independence.

“I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it” — In substance from Edward Everett Hale’s The Man Without a Country.

“To support its Constitution” — Oath of Allegiance, Section 1757, Revised Statutes of the United States.

“To obey its laws” — Washington’s Farewell Address; Article VI, Constitution of the United States.

“To respect its flag” — National Anthem, ‘"Hie Star Spangled Banner;” Army and Navy Regulations; War Department, Circular on Flag Etiquette, April 14,1917.

"And to defend it against all enemies” — Oath of Allegiance, Section 1757, Revised Statutes of the United States.

In any of the ceremonies it may be desirable to include something more lyric than creed and pledge. Poems of the flag are innumerable. One which is typical of the spirit of Americanism is Josephine B. Bowmans beautiful “Voice of America” which seems especially appropriate because of the Masonic allusion. It is as follows:

I have taken the breed of all nations
  Barred no religion or race;
From the highest and lowest of stations
  They came — and I found them a place.

Powers invisible drew them,
  Freedom unborn was their quest,
’Til my uttermost borderland knew them -
  The least of the world and the best.

They came with the wisdom of sages,
  The darkness, the stain and the dirt,
They came with the glory of ages,
  And I took them — my hope and my hurt.

I have gathered the breed of all nations,
  Drawn from each caste and each clan;
Tried them and proved them and loved them
  And made them American.

Made them a nation of Builders,
  Fearless and faithful and free,
Entered them, passed them and raised them
  To the Master’s Sublime Degree.

Theirs is the task of restoring
  The Ancient and Honored Guild -
The work to the Speculative,
  The spirit to those who build.

’Til none shall be less than a master,
  And know but one Ruler above,
Bound by the spirit of justice
  And the mortar of brotherly love.

’Til the house shall belong to the workman
  And the Craft come again to its own;
And this is your task, oh, my people!
  Through you will the Lost Word be known.

If the lodge is so fortunate as to possess a brother with dramatic talent, such one may learn and recite the toast to the flag as a finale to the ceremony:

A Toast to the Flag by Bro. John J. Daly

Here’s to the red of it—
There’s not a thread of it
In all the spread of it
  From foot to head.
But Heroes bled for it,
Faced steel and lead for it.
Precious blood she for it,
  Bathing it red.

Here’s to the white of it—
Thrilled by the sight of it
Who knows the right of it
But feels the might of it
  Through day and night?
Womanhood’s care for it
Made Manhood dare for it,
Purity’s prayer for it
  Kept it so white.

Here’s to the blue of it—
Beauteous view of it,
Heavenly hue of it,
Star-spangled view of it,
  Constant and true.
Diadems gleam for it,
States stand supreme for it,
Liberty’s beam for it
  Brightens the blue!

Here’s to the whole of it,
Stars, stripes and pole of it,
Body and soul of it
O, and the role of it
  Sun shining through
Hearts in accord for it
Swear by the sword for it,
Thanking the Lord for it,
  Red, white and blue!

For the sake of emphasis it is repeated that this Bulletin is intended only to be helpfully suggestive, but it is also noted that no master may the better serve his lodge & his brethren in these difficult days, or do more to help the Fraternity than stress the importance & necessity of genuine patriotism, than by some ceremony designed to make manifest the Masonic teaching of love for country.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

  1. Updated flag regulations can be found in the U.S. Flag Code, 4 U.S.C. §§ 4-10, and 36 U.S.C. to, §§ 170-189.
  2. The words “under God" were added in 1954.
  3. In 2008 the Flag Code was revised to permit military veterans to use the right-hand salute, 4 USC § 9.

The Masonic Service Association of North America