Stand Up for God Bless America… Or Else

A while back a man sued the New York Yankees because they wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom during the singing of “God Bless America.”

Now, three teenagers are suing another baseball team — the minor league Newark (N.J.) Bears — because they were forced to leave the ballpark after not standing during the same song.

The boys say their constitutional rights were violated when they were asked to leave Newark’s Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium in June by Bear’s president co-owner Thomas Cetnar.

Cetnar confirms the boys were asked to leave but declined to elaborate.

The boys — Millburn High seniors Bryce Gadye (gah-DEE’) and Nilkumar (NIHL-koo-mahr) Patel, both 17, and junior Shaan (shahn) Mohammad Khan, 16 — sued in federal court Friday seeking unspecified damages.

The Ledger reported that Mr. Cetnar had yelled, “Nobody sits during the singing of ‘God Bless America’ in my stadium,’” and “Now the get the (expletive) out of here.”

If this story is accurate, then good for the boys. I hope they win their case.

No one has to stand up for that song. I can understand an argument that it might be more polite to do so, but it’s not mandatory by any means. Anyone who overreacts about it needs to relax.

If you think the boys are overstepping their bounds here, just think about those students who are coerced into standing for the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day — but who don’t want to make any oath to an imaginary god. If they were kicked out of the classroom for not standing, I suspect atheists would be almost universally in support of the students’ actions.

(Thanks to Joe for the link!)

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    I find all this nationalistic flag swearing standing up song singing stuff totally alien. But then again, I’m from the UK originally.

  • Siamang

    What’s with the AP’s phonetic spelling of these kids names?

    And also: GEE, can anyone guess why these kids were being target during NOT the anthem, but “God Bless America?”

    Was it because of being brown?

    Folks, our national anthem is not “God Bless America” “Proud to be an American” or whatever the hell other patriotic song you want to play.

    It peeves me to no end to have people insist you show the same respect for other songs that should be reserved for the actual anthem.

    Also, I’m with anyone who doesn’t stand for the national anthem, as long as they’re doing it on principal. Because sitting during the anthem out of the principle of freedom to dissent is ALSO a tribute to America, in my book, and I’ll sit with you.

    I do however draw the line at making a cell phone call during the Anthem. That will earn you a nasty glare.

  • Jay

    I love the irony of forcing people to celebrate their ‘freedom’ and also forcing them to pledge their allegiance to a country that is supposed to value freedom.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    The boys say their constitutional rights were violated when they were asked to leave Newark’s Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium in June by Bear’s president co-owner Thomas Cetnar.

    And they’re wrong, because Thomas Cetnar is not a representative of the government…

  • Siamang

    To be fair, Mike…. your constitutional rights can be violated by people who aren’t representatives of the government. For example, people who block abortion clinics.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    They have a constitutional right to do whatever they so please as long as they’re not breaking the law. It’s not a crime to keep sitting for patriotic songs, so sure he violated their rights.

  • HERD_Dad

    This isn’t at all like being forced to stand for the pledge of allegiance at a public school. This is a baseball team not owned by a public institution. Really, this should be treated like any other situation where a private business is being discriminatory. Protest all you want but are constitutional rights really at issue here? Unless it’s a public team (owned by the city or state), then I don’t think so.

  • Siamang

    Well, the question, PN, is whether they were on public property or private property.

    You can throw people out of your house for any reason you want.

    When it’s paying customers, however, it gets a little more dicey.

  • Eimi

    ugh. Its not really the teens being thrown out that upsets me, or the behavior of the Cetnar, but the comments in the Ledger’s articles truly sickens me.

    I don’t think any of them are Poes…

  • Richard Wade

    I’ll stand up for the “Star Spangled Banner,” but I won’t stand up for “God Bless America,” “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” or “You’re Walkin’ on the Fightin’ Side of Me.” Throw me out please. I can use the money.

  • Pingback: Stand up for God Bless America… Or Else « AnyEveryNot

  • http://anyeverynot.wordpress.com Tim Brown

    Having had a similar run-in, I’m fully behind them. Their chances are dicey, it is private property… but we’ll see.

    [Trackback]

  • Matto the Hun

    I’d throw what little money I can spare that the assholes who throw out and support throwing out those kids or anyone in that situation are the same people that equate everything Barrak Obama does to Hitler and the Nazis.

    As Bart Simpson said, “The ironing is delicious.”

  • beckster

    From what I have read, Newark’s Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium is owned by the county. Therefore it is a public place. Centar is the owner of the baseball team, not the owner of the stadium.

  • Tony

    There really are some atrocious insane bigots who have responded to the Ledger’s article aren’t there?

    I think my plan of instigating an entrance exam to access the internet would be a perfect solution.

  • J Myers

    I think this should be our national anthem.

    At the very least, Stephen Lynch should be appointed to some high-ranking cabinet position.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Reading the comments is quite scary. There are an awful lot of ignorant hypocritical bigots out there. I find it utterly hilarious that they think the kids showed lack of respect, yet their comments, and the words of the guy that kicked them out show a lack of respect for the kids.

    Respect is a two way street – show it and you might receive it. If you just “expect” respect, and never bother showing it, you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t get it.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Aren’t there scriptures against swearing oaths?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Well, the question, PN, is whether they were on public property or private property.

    You can throw people out of your house for any reason you want.

    When it’s paying customers, however, it gets a little more dicey.

    Not really. Not when we’re talking about whether their constitutional rights were violated. If it’s private property, they don’t have a constitutional right to be there, beyond what the property owners will allow. Just because you’ve paid to be there doesn’t mean you get special rights to stay.

    The first amendment does not cover the actions of non-government bodies. There really isn’t a defense here. It would be like going to a private social club, refusing to recite the club oath, and being asked to leave. Regardless of the tone of the language used to ask, if you’ve been asked to leave, you can typically be charged with trespassing if you don’t.

    If this were a city council meeting, and they were told to leave because they refused to stand up during a singing of God Bless America, it would be a totally different story.

  • S Rowed

    The beautiful irony here is that Irving Berlin, who wrote the song, didn’t believe in god.
    http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/2004/may/?ft=barker

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    MikeTheInfidel,

    So it doesn’t matter that the stadium is a publically-owned space?

  • Steven Carr

    How dare these people feel the have a choice to either sit or stand during ‘God Bless America’?

    What do they think America is – ‘The Land of the Free’? Fall in line, kid, or get out.

    Americans are dying in Afghanistan to bring freedom to that country, so do what you are told.

  • ChrisZ

    @MikeTheInfidel

    I doubt the suit has anything to do with the first amendment (whatever these teenagers may believe), and so I also have to disagree with Hemant’s analogy to the Pledge in school. Before I go into what I think it is about, let me first state that I am in no way a legal expert and my guesses are just that — guesses.

    The fact is, that these three teenagers (or someone on their behalf) paid for tickets to a baseball game. Once they’ve paid (and remember they paid not just for the tickets but for transportation to the stadium, perhaps parking and of course taken time out of their lives), the club has some obligation to provide what was paid for. I suspect that this case will turn on whether it was reasonable for these teenagers to expect to have to stand for God Bless America in order to watch the game.

    Let me give you an example. If you went into McDonalds and paid for your food, and then the cashier refused to give you your food until you did 10 jumping jacks and sang Mary Had A Little Lamb, you’d be upset. You would demand your food or your money back, and if they didn’t do either you’d have very good reason to sue. Now, if it was clear before you bought the food that you would have to do 10 jumping jacks and sing Mary Had A Little Lamb that would be a different situation, but without a good reason to expect to have to do that they can’t deny you the services you paid for because you won’t.

    I think this case will probably be similar. The teenagers will contend that it is unreasonable to require everyone to stand for God Bless America, while the team will claim that it is not (and they’ll probably make a tradition based argument). None of that has anything to do with the first amendment.

    And just to be really clear about this, I am in no way a legal expert and all of that was pure guess-work on my part. There may be many other ways to look at this case as well. I think my real point is that these cases are rarely so simple.

  • The Other Tom

    ChrisZ:

    I think this case will probably be similar. The teenagers will contend that it is unreasonable to require everyone to stand for God Bless America, while the team will claim that it is not (and they’ll probably make a tradition based argument). None of that has anything to do with the first amendment.

    If the local government owns the stadium, or the team receives government money or government breaks in any way, I think a good argument can be made that the team has lost the legal right to pick and choose customers based on their free speech or their religion. Of course, this will hinge on those conditions, but beckster says above that the stadium is public property, so that would imply that this is the case.

    MikeTheInfidel:

    The first amendment does not cover the actions of non-government bodies.

    Actually, it does, in as much as that you aren’t permitted to force me to say or not say anything against my wishes. You’re simply not obligated to provide me with a forum to do so. But if I want to stand on a public street corner or in a public park and say what I please, you’re not permitted to stop me. You can speak out against me as much as you like, but you’re not permitted to silence me.

    There really isn’t a defense here. It would be like going to a private social club, refusing to recite the club oath, and being asked to leave.

    No, it really isn’t, not at all. Private social clubs are allowed to have some restrictions on the basis that they are private clubs, and membership is required. For this to be the case with the baseball team, they’d have to require that people would have to become members of a private club – and usually there are some legal requirements around this, such as perhaps that you have to purchase a membership in the club – before they could buy tickets. If the baseball team/stadium does not make people become members in order to buy tickets – in other words, if you can just go to the box office and buy a ticket – then it’s not a private club and doesn’t have the privileges of a private club, so it’s a business, sometimes known as a “public accommodation”, and is subject to relevant laws against discrimination, such as based on religion.

    Also, it could be argued that even if the kids don’t have any other legal rights about being required to stand for the song, they paid for their ticket, and I doubt they were expressly informed in advance that they would be required to stand for the song, and agreed to the requirement or chose to buy the ticket in light of definite knowledge that this would be a requirement. If, after having bought the ticket, the team chooses to add additional restrictions (requirement to stand for the song), it could be argued that the team is breaking the implied contract of the ticket – that the kids paid for their seats so they get to see the game.

    No, I’m not a lawyer. I’m gay, so I have to learn this crap so I know what to do when somebody decides it’d be fun to discriminate against me. And I’m sure that no competent lawyer will miss any of these arguments.

  • http://anti-mattr.blogspot.com/ mathyoo

    I would think that forcing someone to stand during ANY song, even the national anthem, would be a violation of their first amendment rights, regardless of whether the property is public or private. Even if the stadium is private property, it is probably considered a public venue.

    Also, if it is the stadium’s policy that all people must stand during that song, if the boys were not informed beforehand, or if they were not informed during the song before being kicked out, the stadium would be in the wrong. Frankly, I don’t see how the stadium has a leg to stand on here.

  • TXatheist

    I went to a NASCAR event just over 2 years ago and didn’t stand for the invocation which I knew would end with in jesus’ name and no one said anything, except one guy in my party who didn’t know me and later he understood why. I sometimes don’t stand for these “blind patriot” songs at the Round Rock Express game and no one says anything. Dang Jersey.

  • TJ

    The reason this case is dicey is because he’s on the wrong team. If he was Christian and was thrown out of an Atheist convention or something we’d never hear the end of it and he’d be given all the damages in the world. I think we know all about the double standards in our free society.

  • http://www.trainbiggermonkeys.com/blog YuriNalarm

    It’s no one’s business what you do. I’ve been told repeatedly to remove my hat for the anthem, but every time someone tells me to I ask them why. No one ever even knows why you take your hat off but they feel the need to tell me I have to.

  • TXatheist

    Yuri, I “ain’t” telling you to remove your hat obviously but it’s part of the code for honoring the flag. I realize it’s for the Pledge but that’s how the confusion arises. Item 4…http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagcode.htm

  • fair_is_fair

    Tom Cetnar is a criminal. Check out http://www.state.nj.us/corrections/

    Do an offender search for Cetnar.

  • muggle

    It’s more like tickets to a movie than a private social club, I would think. The McDonald’s analogy works. It’s a consumer product, not a membership in a social organization, for Pete’s sake.

    It would be different if it were a social club rather than entertainment but I imagine that not being the case, the ballpark would have no more right to discriminate than any other private business.

    If the private corporation on private property were the rule than a diner would have the right to kick blacks or someone refusing to say grace out of the lunch counter. They don’t.

    God, we’ve fought long and hard for these rights. Let’s not roll over and play dead and say okay have it your way, meanie heads. Let’s be adults instead of cowards and stand up to bullies.

  • BrettH

    I think it’s important to keep in mind the huge amounts of crap cities will go through to keep their local sports team happy. When they’re getting huge tax breaks, discounts on land, and occasionally having tax levied directly to build stadiums for the specific purpose of pleasing a local sports team, it could be considered a government endorsement of the teams actions. If that team is discriminating religiously, which they have a right to do in some circumstances (although previous posters made a good case for there needing to be a warning), I still think it is the responsibility of the local government to immediately cease all preferential treatment… including use of the stadium.

  • muggle

    Somebody clarify because I’m confused at the private right to discriminate thing because this seems clear cut discrimination to me.

    The news regularly has stories all the time where some company or other is being sued for discriminating against customers. Can they or can’t they? I would hope not. Otherwise, we’re all open game every time we go into a place of business for legitimate purposes to act like trained seals for any foolish condition they want to impose at the moment, on a whim.

    I already stay the hell away from Walmart’s but, Christ, I have to buy goods and services. Do I really have to worry about such nonsense?

    Glad I don’t like sports but, hell, what’s next. I have to stand for the pledge before I take in a movie? Say grace before being served at a restaurant?

    Seriously. It seems ridiculous to me that this would by any stretch of the imagination be legal for this ballpark to pull even if no public entity is involved.


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