Rev. Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.
Memorial Day Reflection
Every American should stand when the National Anthem is played. It shows respect and appreciation for the nation and those who have fought and died to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
But President Trump was way out of line when he recently stated "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.”
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (emphasis added).
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, on multiple occasions, that speech includes acts and expressions. One of the landmark cases is Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), where the Supreme Court ruled that burning the American Flag constituted symbolic speech and is thereby protected under the 1st Amendment.
It is true that 1st Amendment protections do not apply in private employment situations. A private employer – such as the NFL – can legally restrict speech, acts, and expressions in their workplace. There are limitations on what an employer can impose. Are the restrictions on certain speech, acts, and expressions discriminatory? Is one religious group restricted while another is not? Is one ethnic group impacted while another is not? If the restrictions on speech, acts, and expressions do not run afoul of anti-discrimination or other laws, private employers can legally restrict said speech.
But there is another, more crucial point that must be addressed. Our government should not be in the business of compelling or coercing patriotism. The choice to stand or not stand is a matter of personal liberty. Government compelled patriotism brings to mind images of North Korea and Hitler’s Germany.
It is no secret that I am a supporter of President Donald John Trump. I still am. However, he crossed the line when he recently said “You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
As the President of the United States he never should have said that. If he were private citizen this would be no big deal. But Donald John Trump IS the President of the United States, and for him to suggest, in his capacity as President, that American citizens who do not stand for the National Anthem, a right secured to them by the United States Constitution, maybe shouldn’t be in the country, is wrong.
Our brave fellow Americans died to protect the rights of Americans as enumerated in our Constitution. They died trying to stop the spread of fascism and other anti-American ideologies around the world. They died trying to spread the freedoms that we enjoy to the rest of the world. We cannot now, under the guise of patriotism, seek to infringe upon those God-given rights.
President Trump, I support you and have you back. But regarding that statement, you are way off base.