Goshen College will play national anthem before sporting events

GOSHEN, Ind. – Goshen College announced today it will play an instrumental version of the Star-Spangled Banner before select sports events on campus, followed by prayer.

This decision will take effect in March, at the start of the spring sports season and was made after discussion and deliberation over the past year. Providing a more hospitable atmosphere for athletic events was a primary reason for the recommendation and ultimately for the decision.

“One of the greatest U.S. freedoms is that we can express our faith and love of country in different ways, and we recognize that Christians differ in how to do that,” said Goshen College President Jim Brenneman said. “We believe this is the right decision for the college at this time. Playing the anthem offers a welcoming gesture to many visiting our athletic events, rather than an immediate barrier to further opportunities for getting to know one another.”

In addition, the national anthem is one way that is commonly understood to express an allegiance to the nation of one’s citizenship. The college has shown that in the past in other ways: flying a flag on campus, praying for all men and women serving our country, welcoming military veterans as students and employees, annually celebrating the U.S. Constitution and encouraging voting.

The college had been discussing the historic practice of not playing the national anthem for many years, but the conversation was delayed because of regional and national media attention in the fall of 2008.

The college’s President’s Council formed a National Anthem Task Force made up of faculty and students in the spring of 2009 to develop a proposal for a college policy. The task force made the recommendation in September 2009 and the process then included several campus sessions to gather the varied opinions from students, faculty and staff. The President’s Council made the decision in January to accept the task force’s recommendation.

One concern that many Mennonites have had with the playing of the national anthem has been that it places love for country above love for God. But, Brenneman said, “we believe playing the anthem in no way displaces any higher allegiances, including to the expansive understanding of Jesus – the ultimate peacemaker – loving all people of the world.”

Finally, the decision was made with the belief that “playing the anthem opens up new possibilities for members of the Goshen College community to publicly offer prophetic critique – if need be – as citizens in the loyal opposition on issues of deepest moral conviction, such as war, racism and human rights abuses,” according to the statement by the President’s Council announcing their decision.

Brenneman gave some historical context for the change of practice. “Playing the national anthem has not been among Goshen College’s practices primarily because of our Christ-centered core value of compassionate peacemaking seeming to be in conflict with the anthem’s militaristic language,” he said. “We are a college owned by Mennonite Church USA and we have a diverse student body that comes from 40 different Christian denominations, several world religions, 35 states and 25 countries and all races and ethnicities. We believe being faithful followers of Jesus calls us to regularly consider how to be a hospitable and diverse community.”

Mennonite Church USA does not have an official position on the playing of the national anthem, and there are varying practices among the other Mennonite colleges and universities.

The college’s core values are as central to the campus’ identity as ever. “As we have made this decision, we continue to – more publicly, boldly and explicitly – declare our commitment to Christ, to compassionate peacemaking, to servant leadership, to global citizenship and to passionate learning,” Brenneman said. “These core values are being integrated in new ways into our curriculum, student learning outcomes, hiring decisions, employment practices and board orientation. They are being embedded in the deep structures of Goshen College.”

Campus debate and engagement around important issues will continue to be a significant part of the Goshen College experience. “We are always in dialogue at Goshen College about important issues – as our recent Martin Luther King Jr. Study Day reflects – and strive to do so respectfully,” said Brenneman. “This is part of being an institution of higher education, but even more so because we are a college committed to making peace in all of its forms – with ourselves, with our community, with the world and with God.

He added, “Though we have made a decision on this matter, we continue to welcome dialogue as a campus, as a community and as a church about how to be more faithful as citizens of this world and God’s Kingdom.”

Visit the national anthem overview page, with more news and views about the college’s decision.


Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College Public Relations Director Richard Aguirre at (574) 535-7571 (office), (574) 524-5946 (cell) or rraguirre@goshen.edu.


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.