A country’s national anthem and flag are inherent to its identity; rousing renditions of La Marseillaise showed the French people’s solidarity after recent terror attacks and monuments around the world were lit up with the Union Jack after a June terrorist attack in Manchester.
China last week announced that it was considering three-year jail terms for anyone who disrespected its national anthem or flag in public.
US President Donald Trump recently travelled to the country and has been vocal in criticising NFL players who kneel during the national anthem in protest at what they perceive as racial injustice.
He has also tweeted that flag burning must have “consequences”.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
The US’ Flag Code outlines etiquette that should be observed while the Stars and Stripes is playing – everyone should stand and face the flag, civilians should place their right hand over their heart and military personnel/veterans should salute throughout – but it is never enforced and no punishment will be assigned for breaching it.
This is a hotly debated issue in the US and there have been many attempts to pass flag-desecration amendments.
The most recent in June 2006 fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to send the amendment to be voted on by the states.
What about EU countries?
The United Kingdom
The UK has many myths about laws relating to the Crown with varying degrees of truth, however, neither the law of England and Wales nor the law of Scotland contains punishment for desecrating a national flag.
Article 188 of Greece’s “penal code” states that if someone insults the national anthem, destroys the flag or other national Greek symbols they could go to prison for two years or pay a fine.
The code also addresses the desecration of foreign flags (Article 155). If someone “removes, destroys, deforms or pollutes the official flag or emblem of the sovereignty of a foreign state” or “or interrupts the national anthem” while in Greece, they could serve six months in prison or pay a fine at the request of the foreign government.