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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

I Used to Sit for the National Anthem Too

Culture Race

But here’s the question: Is the ‘police brutality’ that NFL players are protesting based in reality?

As a youngster, I didn’t salute the flag or stand for the national anthem. It ran against my religious teachings.

Each year, my mother would take me to the principal’s office on the first day of school and explain that we were Jehovah’s Witnesses, which meant that I would remain silent while my classmates recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. When my father, who was divorced from my mother and not a member of the church, took me to sporting events, he stood for the national anthem while I sat. He never said anything to me about it. He respected my mother’s desire to raise her children in the faith of her choice.

Growing up, I was taught that the flag was an idol and that saluting it was a form of idolatry, which was forbidden. Indeed, all forms of patriotism were discouraged. No joining the military. No running for office. No voting or taking sides in political debates. Even membership in civic groups, such as the Boy Scouts, was frowned upon. Over the decades, Witnesses endured fierce opposition for holding such beliefs. They were tried for sedition. Their homes were vandalized and their businesses were boycotted. In the 1930s and ’40s, church members were physically attacked by angry mobs of people who prided themselves on their loyalty and patriotism. The Witnesses turned to courts for protection and were mostly successful in obtaining it, whether the issue was door-to-door proselytizing, conscientious objection to the draft, or mandatory flag salutes.

Read the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal