A Catholic diocese in New York forbid protesting during the national anthem at all three of the Catholic high schools in the diocese’s territory.
The Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York even threatened disciplinary consequences.
The diocese’s education department sent a directive to St. John the Baptist, Holy Trinity, and Bishop McGann-Mercy, reminding each school administration and student body that protesting the national anthem before games or at any other school event was strictly prohibited, diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said Thursday, according to Newsday.
The diocesan reminder came in the wake of the series of protests from various NFL teams in which certain teams chose to kneel, instead of stand, during the national anthem, to protest the flag over perceived racial inequalities.
“This is a reminder that all student-athletes and spectators are expected to stand during the playing of the National Anthem at school sporting events, without any gestures of demonstration or protest,” the directive said. “This is long-standing school policy and applies equally to all participants and audiences at all school events, including those that are not sporting; for example, concerts and plays. We ask our students also to recognize that failure to abide by this policy may result in serious disciplinary action.”
Any student violation of the policy concerning the national anthem would be handled on a case-by-case basis, Dolan said, taking into account context and circumstances. Each school would measure out discipline according to whatever means they decide, according to Newsday. The diocese does not prohibit protest in general, but mandates that there is an appropriate time and place for students to voice their support of or opposition to national issues.
“We respect the right of students and spectators to have their political and social beliefs, certainly, and to express those beliefs at appropriate times,” Dolan told Newsday. “But it’s just not appropriate to draw attention to yourself during the national anthem, which really honors the sacrifices that others have made.”
While the diocese cannot discipline spectators, diocesan school policy allows referees to penalize whichever team whose spectators protest or disrupt the national anthem. Parents and spectators alike expressed their support for the policy against such protest.
“There’s no place on the athletic field for a protest,” U.S. Air Force veteran Jack Lillywhite, whose son plays for McGann-Mercy, told Newsday. “You want to protest, go out there and hit the guy harder than he hits you. There’s no place for it, not when that flag is flying.”
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