No more National Anthem

Happy Canada Day to any of our Canadian readers out there. In honor of our own national holiday coming up on Monday, I dug into my guilt file and pulled out the coverage from a few weeks ago of Goshen College’s decision to stop playing the National Anthem.

Last year, the school decided that they would try out the song before sporting events, but apparently administrators received so much backlash that they decided to halt the short-lived tradition. The Reading Eagle thought it was hilarious to publish this promo:

” ‘Oh, Say Can You See? No.’

“Mennonite-based Goshen (Ind.) College will no longer play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ before games because of complaints it went against the school’s pacifist philosophy.

“As if the baseball team’s 10-41 record left any doubt.”

We also have some recent radio coverage from WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station. While I normally love listening to this station when I pass through town, this piece fell a little bit flat, even though Goshen is practically in Chicago’s back yard. When I read the coverage, I was looking for the explanation for why the college removed the practice.

It’s connected to the Mennonite Church, a Christian-based faith.

A primary tenet of the church is non-violence. It also takes the separation of church and state very seriously.

The church doesn’t restrict the handful of its colleges from playing the anthem.

“A Christian-based faith” doesn’t really tell us much about the Mennonite church at all. “It also takes the separation of church and state very seriously” doesn’t explain how it feels about the idea, just merely that it takes it very seriously. Perhaps the story should note that Goshen is connected to Mennonite Church USA, just one of many Mennonite groups but may be the most mainstream.

Goshen College isn’t the only Mennonite school that refuses to play the anthem.

A college in Kansas and another in Virginia don’t play it either.

But neither received the backlash Goshen College is now getting.

Do Goshen administrators have any theories as to why they are getting the backlash in particular? Last year, administrators admitted student enrollment was on the decline; Did the criticism from other fellow Mennonites outweigh those concerns?

Since making both moves, what kind of reaction have they received from the community or nationally? Who were some of the players involved in the debate? I know Stanley Hauerwaus, Shane Claiborne and Mike Gallagher have been mentioned in previous coverage.

I would also be curious to hear how the school handles American flags, whether they display them or not. That leads me to this piece from Associated Baptist Press on whether churches should display the American flag in the sanctuary. As we approach the stuff-yourself-with-hotdogs-day, there are other similar stories to explore around this holiday on love of country, love of God, and whether there’s a hierarchy.

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  • Will

    We-e-e-ll, the verse about “Their blood has washed out their vile footsteps’ pollution” does not fit well with Christian or non-Christian pacifism. Oh, you didn’t know that verse?

    Was it mentioned in any of the college’s statements?

  • Jerry is a site discussing the relationship of the Mennonites and the flag. Any story about them should include this background theology.

  • Cathy G.

    I was hoping GR would mention this :)

    I visited Goshen back in 2008 when I was writing a series on the presidential election, and I remember they had at least one American flag on campus, next to a U.N. flag.
    Not sure if it’s still there, though.

    I saw a Fox News headline that said the school “banned” the anthem – not sure that’s the most diplomatic word choice.

  • Will

    Well, in the case of “gay marriage”, we are constantly told that refusal to institute it is a “ban”.

  • Jodi B.

    I work in the Goshen College Public Relations Office and thought you might find a few resources helpful that we have made available.

    You can read more about Goshen College’s decision (as well as related resources) here:
    You can read some of the coverage of this issue over the past month from various media around the country here:

    As for the flag, the college flies an American flag alongside a UN flag. As well, there is a display of flags from around the world in the college’s Rec-Fitness Center, and it includes an American flag.

    And Cathy, you are correct that the college has not “banned” the national anthem. It just won’t be officially played by the institution before sporting events.