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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Don’t limit free speech

    Indiana state Sen. Vaneta Becker has proposed a bill that will fine any individual $25 for altering the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” At first glance, you might think this is a joke, but Becker is adamant about the regulations of this bill, which will affect all events sponsored by public schools and state universities.

    Realistically, how can anyone be expected to regulate and enforce this law in all public institutions? Will special lyrics police officers be appointed to write you a ticket for mistakenly singing “and the rockets’ red flare”?

    For Becker this is a subject that is not to be taken lightly. According to the Huffington Post, the bill would require schools to maintain a two-year record of performances and have a protocol for dealing with “inappropriate” performances. The State Department of Education would determine what makes a performance “acceptable.”

    The Indianapolis Star reported that the incident that inspired the legislation came from a constituent who told Becker that a local school program had parodied the words of the national anthem in a “disrespectful” way.

    Even though the intention of the performance was all in good fun, Becker was not amused. She told the Star that, “I don’t think the national anthem is something we ought to be joking around with.” So, in typical political fashion, the only solution Becker could conceive was to take away another aspect of our freedom of speech, rather than consult the performers and express her concerns.

    Part of the First Amendment is, “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.” So if passed, this bill would be in direct violation of the Bill of Rights. It’s our freedom as Americans to have our opinions and to say, or sing, what we want.

    It is almost comical that Becker’s biggest concern as an Indiana senator is to deal with artists who are simply customizing the anthem to their surroundings in order to pump up the crowd. Steven Tyler did this exact thing when he substituted “home of the Indianapolis 500” for “home of the brave,” at the 2001 race. He was exercising his right to freedom of speech, and although it angered some people, it was still a right that the Constitution grants to everyone.

    If performers are to be fined for altering the national anthem, then everyone who omits “under God” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance should be fined as well because it’s also a national rhetoric icon.

    You can’t start picking and choosing what Americans are allowed to say or sing. Taking away one aspect of freedom of speech can’t be done without consequences. Either way, Becker should concentrate on issues that will make a difference, rather than patrolling university gyms and stadiums for questionable renditions of a song.

    — Rebecca Miller is a junior studying photography and journalism. She can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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