Indiana Law Would Punish Schools for Getting National Anthem Wrong

Vaneta Baker

Indiana State Sen. Vaneta Becker (R) has proposed legislation that would not improve math or science skills, or indeed, anything having to do with education, but which would introduce, reports the Indianapolis Star, “’performance standards ‘for singing and playing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.” Also affected would be private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers.  That’s a lot of schools.

This particular piece of legislation from Indiana may seem a minor annoyance to some, though it’s raising quite a fuss among liberals and progressives, but it represents a far greater threat to America than it might seem. And it only goes to show that Wisconsin and Michigan Tea Partiers have nothing on their Hoosier brethren.

The GOP and its Tea Party allies claim to be all for small and nonintrusive government, but the new law would require performers “to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians — whether amateur or professional — would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.” There’s nothing like giving our already overworked legal system more nuisance cases.

Additionally, “schools to maintain audio recordings of all performances for two years and develop a procedure for dealing with complaints if a musician is alleged to have strayed from the approved lyrical or melodic guidelines.” Becker claims, “I don’t think it would be very difficult for schools. You could record it on a lot of cellphones or like a small recording device (or) a CD.”

She says it won’t cost the department of education anything, but then, she hasn’t consulted the department of education.

Who would determine what an acceptable rendition of the Star Spangled Banner is? The State Department of Education with some guidance from the Commission for Higher Education. What Becker herself wants is for it to be sung “the way that we normally have it sung or heard throughout most of our state and our country.”

It has been argued that this bill does not violate the Constitution. But it is hardly in support of the spirit of the Constitution with regards to the ideals of liberty and free expression.  It sounds, unsurprisingly, like a very totalitarian move, which puts it in lockstep with most other GOP legislation proposed over the past year. It would certainly put paid to any covers of the famous Jimi Hendrix version.

One question which occurs to me is whether or not we can charge all those God-fearing country singers for ruining the song with their overdone twangs. But a better question, not that anyone in the Indiana government will ask it (they are overwhelmingly Republican) is, why waste time on how the national anthem is sung when we should be concentrating on getting grades up and improving our schools and educational standards?

Strangely, this law is not a first. According to the Indianapolis Star Massachusetts and Michigan both have similar laws and no, the Tea Party didn’t do it in Michigan – that particular law dates to 1931. Violation is a misdemeanor. In neither state can you use the song as dance music or as aprt of a musical medley or as an exit march and neither state allows you to make  “embellishment or addition in the way of national or other melodies.” Worse, it isn’t limited to schools in those states but covers all public places, including theaters, movie theaters, restaurants, and cafes. Additionally, Florida wants you to act in a certain way when the national anthem is performed (don’t even thing about getting jiggy with it).

Big Brother is watching.

Of course, there is already a federal law regarding the national anthem, such as putting your hand over your heart.

Title 36 United States Code:

§ 301. National Anthem.

(a) Designation. — The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b) Conduct During Playing. — During a rendition of the national anthem —

(1) when the flag is displayed —

(A) all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;

(B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

(C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note.

(2) When the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

But federal law doesn’t get persnickety about how the song is sung. And this one gets ignored every Sunday at every football game in the United States during the fall and winter and at every baseball game from spring to fall. So far, nobody has been extraordinarily renditioned but then, if they were, we wouldn’t know, would we? And who knows, we have to do something with those predator drones and Perry can’t possibly use all of them on the Mexican border. So many tempting targets, so much money to use…

Becker and her ilk need to understand there is a difference between basic respect (hand to heart, etc) and artistic expression. Artistic expression is something integral to a free society. And look folks, patriotism isn’t patriotism when it’s coerced and expressions of patriotism cannot be rigidly defined. We each show it in our own way, for example, some by supporting a war and some, equally, by opposing the same war. And a person is no less patriotic because they might hit a high note that is not on the sheet music. I personally find some of the renditions I’ve been exposed to horrific but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a law enacted against such performances.

This is simply an egregious example of what the Republican Party has been about for the past two years, pushing through in state after state and in the federal government legislation that has no direct bearing on any of the many crises we, as a country face. Rather than direct their attention to our real problems, the GOP has time and again directed its attention to problems of its own manufacture, presenting their bills as triumphs for liberty each time they erode our rights.

23 Replies to “Indiana Law Would Punish Schools for Getting National Anthem Wrong”

  1. Somebody get that woman a job where she actually benefit society instead of wasting everyone’s time. In my opinion, it absolutely is unconstitutional as far as barring freedom of expression.

  2. I read this before coffee…then told my hormonal bondage partner what “Veneta” (gotta’ love that name) said…the response was somewhat crude, but very funny…something about a prayer that her upper anatomy stretches below her waist while her private parts fell off. Now, I’m not the kind of person who makes those kinds of crude, visceral, flippant remarks, but in this case, I thought it well said, a very heart-felt expression to describe a true “patriot”. The public is welcome to repeat this phrase when referring to “Veneta” in any fashion they like as long as they say it loud and proud, and record it for her to hear over and over…

  3. Sigh, José Feliciano would be in prison by now.

    I am certainly positive that this makes her constituents very proud of her. In fact I bet this is the culmination of her entire career in politics. Increasing big government one step at a time, just like new Gingrich changing Washington one wife at a time

  4. Another example of big-government intrusiveness from someone of the so-called small-government crowd. I wonder if they have folks watching full-time to see who gets the national anthem wrong. GOP/TP’s have continuously exposed themselves as being unfit to be in any part of government because they are inflexible and they focus on things that do nothing to improve the lives of their constituents.

  5. It seems to me that the problems in Florida with the Tea Party and the dominionists always seem to take second stage to other areas of the country, even though it can be easily argued that this state often leads in extreme conservative stupidity and craziness. I believe it would be more accurate to say “And it only goes to show that Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida Tea Partiers have nothing on their Hoosier brethren.”

    When they decide that criticizing the US is unpatriotic and we must always support the nation irregardless of how evil its actions are, and we are required to perform acts of “patriotism” under threat of arrest, then the dominionists and their cohorts have won.

  6. Oh say can you TeaParty
    By the First Amendment’s burning light …

    (ooops, gotta stop … the cops are knocking on the door!)

  7. Rethuglicans, Our very own enemies from within, continuing to take away our rights one at a time, all the while they are falsely claiming to be real patriotic Americans and supporters of the constitution! They are pathetic jokes, not worthy of the air they breath.

  8. Oh, say can you pee
    In the dark of the night
    When the outhouse is far
    And the pot is small-seeming

    (That has been around since the 19th Century. Does it get grandfatheredin#)

  9. Well, to be fair, the tune IS based on an old English drinking song :)I would certainly doff my cap to that version, having used an outhouse on a very dark night in the wilds of Wisconsin

  10. We can make fun of this all we want, but in all honesty, these people are as great a threat to freedom as Hitler was to the freedom of Germany, and remember, a lot of people thought he was just a clown and buffoon. I remind you that this is not an isolated incident: we’ve had a front-running candidate for president seriously suggest doing away with child labor laws, a question during a presidential debate that asked if a comatose man without insurance should be allowed to die result in cheers and affirmation from the crowd, and several states allowing proescutors to deny a defendant the right to refuse a jury trial. This may seem on the surface like a joke, but, trust me, it is not.

    We need to take these things seriously and stop them. In my opinion, we’ve already let them go much, much too far.

    Please call, write or email your elected officials, no matter where you are, and let them know that this sort of despotism will not be allowed in the United States that you support.

  11. Will there be “tin ear” disability waivers available? If not, why not? If so, which governmental agency would handle applications?

    singing police, birth control police, uterus police…

    Republicans = less freedom + more government

  12. Nobody here is under any illusions, but those who don’t learn to laugh in grim circumstances are likely to wind up laughing it up where yhey can’t help it.

  13. DeGrene,I call Sens. Roberts R-Ks, Moran R-Ks Rep.Pompeo R-Ks. on every subject under the sun and get nowhere. One receptionist asked me what is despotism? As you know Kansas is a Republican state controlled by the Koch brothers. We are all comotose unless we do everything in our power to stop them.

    DeGrene I take you very seriously. SHCCCC

  14. Ah yes, but that’s only true when the GOPTP is in power. When Democrats hold office, all bets are off.

    This “lady.” and I use the term loosely, would fit in well with the brown shirted, jack booted, Heil masters as would the rest of her RW GOPTP Dictator wannabes.

  15. They are spinning their rightness so far, they seem to have forgotten about the real issues. Get people back to work, then worry about your interpretations of whichever religious text you are trying to push in this country that was formed by Deists, womanizers, and freaky geek party animals, at least the 18th century version of them. When they stop quoting these books, and start realising that no one will take them seriously unless they are back at work at a decent wage, then they can push their rhetoric. Vote independent, reformist, green, or whatever, but don’t let these guys and girls running the show come back in 2012.

  16. I find an extremely uncomfortable overlap with this new law (unrelated to the Party that keeps writing these laws while claiming less government is more) and other nations we’ve previously gone to war with that had similar legal requirements. How many other totalitarian leaders have made similar rules? Too many, and their citizens suffer horribly when there’s a long chain of laws enforcing harsh penalties for small infractions.

    The Founding Fathers placed Free Speech at the head of our Bill of Rights. I can’t speak to how intentionally the Amendments were ordered, but symbolically or not, when you don’t have the freedom to speak up, it is infinitely easier to lose the rest of your rights.

  17. ****Sigh****

    The republicans want to take the government out of our life. Out of our life with government programs that protect our health, workplaces, food supply, safety.
    Yet, they want the government to sit in our bedrooms and regulate how, when and with whom we have sex. Not, how we educate our children, but how they sing the pledge of allegiance?
    Please. If people do not support the Democrats in 2012 and I am talking about moderate republicans too, then we will fail as a country.

  18. Jimmy Hendrix would too. Can you imagine with all the social bullshit laws the repugs put in place that the govt will have to have one worker for every person in the country to make sure we all comply with their bullshit? This is what they will do nationally, if they get control of congress and the WH. I don’t hate anything, but I do despise stupidity, which is all the repugs. have.

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