With the controversy of kneeling for the national anthem at a fever pitch, it made me think about other people who never stood for the national anthem.
For decades, religious groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have never stood for the national anthem, and it has never caused the type of controversy we see today.
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in idolizing things such as flags and songs; their beliefs put God first and nothing comes before.
When talking with Willie L. Johnson Jr.–who is a Jehovah’s Witness along with the rest of his family–he expressed how standing for the pledge and the national anthem could be viewed as “disrespectful to God by putting something man made before him (God).”
Johnson considers the flag to be an idol. After quoting the first line of the Pledge of Allegiance, He explains that “I pledge my allegiance to the United States of America and to the republic.” In other words, “what you are saying that you are giving your all to this country and willing to put it before anything.” He says he refuses to stand for something like that.
When asked if he’s ever encountered people who tell him to stand up when the national anthem is played, Johnson replied that he has “never received any backlash until the controversy started last year.” Once he explains why he doesn’t stand, he is left alone.
Johnson also mentioned that he never had any complaints from his childrens’ teachers about them not standing for the national anthem or the pledge.
“It’s our religion and it should be respected just like anybody else who chooses a different religion,” Johnson said. “It’s not about disrespecting the flag; its about not disrespecting our Jehovah and putting a flag or an anthem before him.”
That said, I was drawn to the question, “Does America show greater deference toward an individual’s religious beliefs than his or her personal beliefs?
Yes, freedom of religion is in the Constitution. But so is the right to a peaceful protest.
So why does it seem that one is viewed differently than the other?
Why should a person be attacked because they believe that they and others are being treated unfairly in this country?
Why should a person stand for an anthem and swear a pledge that says that we are supposed to be united as one while at the same time people with darker colored skin aren’t made to feel welcome to visit cities in Indiana like Martinsville or certain parts of the country? Is that really freedom?
Why should a person stand when a person of darker color has their hands up and still is being shot down and killed, but nothing happens to the officers but paid leave? Is this what the “land of the free” looks like?
Of course, this is not to say that religious views should be disrespected equally. Instead, as Americans, we have to stop attacking those with different beliefs than our own, whether they be religious or personal. We need to start listening, healing and changing what is wrong in the first place. American is hurting at a time that we should be coming together we are being divided because people are not listening and not taking the time to at least try to understand either side, or just respecting the opinions of others.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest was never about disrespecting the soldiers or disrespecting this great nation. It’s about the lack of respect that people in this country have for people of darker skin. It’s about the fact that our own president can call those marching alongside white nationalists in Charleston “good people” but a football player kneeling to raise awareness about racial injustice a “Son of a B.”
If we are not going to disrespect the people who sit down for the flag because of their religion belief, then we shouldn’t disrespect the people who kneel for a peaceful protest.
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Calumet College of St. Joseph
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