US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued guidance on public displays of flags on Friday, effectively banning Confederate flags in military displays. Esper enumerated flags permitted to fly, including flags of allies, flags of international organizations of which the US is a member and Senate-confirmed civilian flags. Esper left Confederate flags off the list, however.
“The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols,” Esper reasoned.
The guidelines apply to all public displays and depictions of flags by service members and civilians in all Department of Defense workplaces, including common access and public areas.
However, the guidelines do not apply to “museum exhibits, state-issued license plates, grave sites, memorial markers, monuments, educational displays, historical displays, or works of art, where the nature of the display or depiction cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement of the flag by the Department of Defense.”
The Confederate flag has long been the subject of contention in the US. The de facto ban could stir tensions with US President Donald Trump, who has defended the flag as a “freedom of speech” issue.
Esper refocused the discussion: “We must always remain focused on what unifies us, our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the nation.”