National Flags in Churches

Question

What is the orthodox position concerning flags (e.g., the American flag) in churches?


Answer

To my knowledge, there is no restriction against an American flag in church, even though there are many who seem to object to this. It is only my guess, but it seems that in many places during the McCarthy era—and in some places even earlier—American flags began to appear in some parishes as a way to downplay accusations that Russian-Americans were not “Soviets” or “communists.” I remember as a kid during that era that there were a number of people who “americanized” their names, placed an American flag in our church, etc. because there were accusations that the “Russian” parish was “communist.” Most, if not all, of the new parishes organized after that era seem to be flagless, however.

Before one makes a categorical judgment against such things, it would be wise to trace the origin of the practice. It may seem a bit purposeless today, since McCarthyism is not the reality any more, but those older parishioners who did endure negative experiences during that period well remember what things were like “back then.” Of course, I am not speaking in favor of the use of American or other national flags, but I do think that the issue, in some parishes, would need to be approached with some sensitivity as to why those flags may have appeared in the first place.