Mennonite college reverses its decision to play US national anthem

By staff writers
June 9, 2011

The directors of Goshen College, a Mennonite liberal arts institution, have reversed its 2010 decision to play an instrumental version of the US national anthem before athletic events.

The decision has been welcomed by the large number of Christians, both in the United States and internationally, who opposed the original decision - on the grounds that the Mennonite peace tradition and theological commitments are incompatible with nationalism and militarism.

'The Star Spangled Banner', the USA's national anthem, is drenched in militaristic images and assumptions, say Christian peacemakers. It also assumes that religious freedom is in the gift of the state. It was composed by Francis Scott Key 'In Defense of Fort McHenry' in September 1814. The US Congress proclaimed it the national anthem in 1931.

Signatories of the protest letter and petition against Goshen College's 2010 decision to play the anthem included high-profile theologians and clergy, including Stanley Hauerwas.

In a 6 June 2011 news release, the Goshen College board asked president Jim Brenneman to “find an alternative ... that fits with sports tradition, that honours country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies.”

A number of the Indiana college's students and spectators protested at the inaugural playing of the national anthem at a baseball game on 23 March 2010, by remaining seated. Others stood.

No timeline for finding an alternative has yet been promulgated. But The Mennonite magazine has reported that board president Rick Stiffney expects the alternative to be ready by the beginning of the athletic schedule in the Fall.

The board acknowledged some shortcomings in the decision-making process that led to its 13 February 2010 decision to have the US national anthem played.

“It would have been helpful had there been opportunities for greater alumni participation,” the statement said. It added: “The Board should have engaged more deeply on the anthem proposal when given the opportunity by President Brenneman in December 2009.”

“Discussion on the issues surrounding and raised by the playing of the national anthem... will and should continue,” said the statement. “The official discussion, though, at Goshen College about this issue is concluded with the Board’s decision.”

Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow signed the international 'Letter of Resistance' asking Goshen College to reverse its decision to play the national anthem -


Also on Ekklesia:

* 'Nationalism and militarism have no place in Christian formation', by Andy Alexis-Baker -

* 'Christian resistance to a culture of war and chauvinism', by Simon Barrow -

* 'Refusing to sing praises to nationalism and violence', by Goshen student David Jost -

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