Social media debates over Tomi Lahren’s “Make America Great Again” Halloween costume
Lahren posted a picture of her Halloween costume on her Instagram account
Many claim that Lahren’s costume is in violation of US flag code
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled flagged protection laws violated the First Amendment
Fox News commentator Tori Lahren is catching backlash on social media once again after she posted a picture of her “Make America Great Again” Halloween costume on her Instagram.
The caption on her post read, “Oh LA get ready to find your safe spaces! What am I? Well if you’re conservative, I’m American AF. If you’re a lib, I’m ‘offensive.’ Let’s go. #TeamTomi #halloween #MAGA #Merica #makeHalloweenGreatAgain.”
All across social media people are debating on if Lahren hypocritically violated the US flag code after giving NFL players shit for kneeling during the National Anthem. So is Lahren breaking the flag code with her Halloween costume?
The simple answer to this question is that there is no simple answer to this question. Lahren’s costume falls into a very grey area.
US Flag Code
First, it is important to understand that the US flag code is not a law. It acts as “guidelines” for United States citizens to treat the country’s flag. That means there is no law stating you must adhere to the flag code.
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
For some, that is enough to burn Lahren at the stake. Others argue her costume is not made from an actual American flag, so it clearly does not fall under the flag code, which is where things become grey.
Meriam-Webster defines a flag as, “a usually rectangular piece of fabric of distinctive design that is used as a symbol (as of a nation), as a signaling device, or as a decoration.” By definition of the word, Lahren’s outfit could fall under the definition of a flag, in which case she is wearing it as apparel and breaking flag code. However, it could still be argued that her costume is not a flag.
In the 1890’s, the first flag-protection laws aimed to prevent using the flag’s image in advertising and countless commercial products. However, these laws blanketed those who were merely taking part in patriotic displays.
During the first National Flag Conference in Washington in 1923, a meeting convened by the American Legion determined to take from dozens of military flag codes to create one national flag code. The national flag code has been a US Code since 1942.
During World War I, many states decided to add new flag-desecration language and increased the penalties. In 1968, the first federal flag-protection act was passed as a response to anti-Vietnam War protesters committing widespread desecration of the flag. In 1989, the Supreme Court declared all the state flag-protection laws, unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
That same year, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989. It was during “United States v. Eichman” the Supreme Court reaffirmed the belief that flag protection laws violated the first Amendment. In the Eichman case, defendants were arrested for burning the American flag. The district court dismissed the charges, but the government appealed directly to the Supreme Court. It was decided the act of burning the flag did “regulate the content of protected speech.” The court decided the government “cannot prohibit the expression of an idea, no matter how disagreeable that idea may be.”