National Anthem at Goshen College

Goshen College made a decision in 2011 to play “America the Beautiful” instead of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before athletic events because it fits with our national sports tradition and honors this country, while better resonating with our Christ-centered core values (passionate learning, compassionate peacemaking, servant leadership and global citizenship) and respecting the views of our diverse constituencies. We stand by the freedom of all to express their religious faith, love for this country and hopes for change in different ways.

Timeline of events

On Aug. 19, 2011, President Jim Brenneman announced at an all-employee brunch that “America the Beautiful” would be played before select sports events starting in Fall 2011. The Board of Directors unanimously endorsed President Brenneman’s decision that the first verse of “America the Beautiful” be played or sung with the U.S. flag present. A brief prayer may be offered at the discretion of the coach. Read the president’s statement.

On June 6, 2011, the board’s decision was announced. The board, in consultation with President Brenneman, asked the president to find an alternative to playing the National Anthem that fits with sports tradition, that honors country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies.

On Feb. 13, 2010, the Board of Directors affirmed the decision of the President’s Council (read the press release). Because of deeply held and divergent opinions around this decision, the board also asked the college’s leadership to create opportunities for thoughtful and prayerful discernment in ongoing structured dialogue. Dialogue took place on and off campus throughout fall 2010 winter and spring of 2011 with key stakeholders (alumni, faculty, staff and students). Learn more about this process, the events and committee’s work. In early May 2011, the Listen & Learn Steering Committee provided a final report to the Board on the e-survey, the alumni gatherings, and the campus listen and learn events. An executive summary and excerpts of the e-survey were made available by the Board.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the Goshen College President’s Council, led by President Jim Brenneman, announced that it had decided to allow the Athletic Department to play an instrumental version of the national anthem prior to select sports events starting that spring. The decision prompted significant response from those who strongly supported and opposed the decision.

1894-2009: Goshen College did not play the National Anthem at sporting events, though had no official policy against it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What does Goshen College do before home sporting events?
    An instrumental version of “America the Beautiful” is played before athletic events, followed by a prayer.
  2. Did Goshen College “ban” the National Anthem?
    No. Goshen College chooses not to play the National Anthem before home sporting events, but there is no ban on the song being played on campus.
  3. Does Goshen College fly the American flag?
    Yes, an American flag has flown on campus for decades (since during the Vietnam War) and it currently flies at the front of campus, at the athletic fields and in the gymnasium.
  4. What do Goshen College athletes do at away games?
    GC athletes are free to show their support/respect at whatever level they feel comfortable, such as standing, singing the words, placing a hand over their heart, etc.
  5. Are all Goshen College students Mennonite?
    No, about a third of the Goshen College student body identifies as Mennonite. Students from all faith backgrounds are welcome.
  6. Do other Mennonite colleges play the National Anthem?
    Some Mennonite colleges play the National Anthem at sporting events, others do not.
  7. What is the official position of Mennonite Church USA on the playing of the National Anthem at Mennonite schools?
    Mennonite Church USA has not taken an official position on this issue.