Goshen College isn’t the only school to refrain from playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at school-sponsored functions.
Eastern Mennonite University, in Virginia, and Hesston College, in Kansas, have similar policies. In fact, policies that place emphasis on the separation of church and state have historically been common in many Mennonite institutions, Goshen College professor of history Steven Nolt said Tuesday.
"It’s definitely broader than Goshen College, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the case for all Mennonites across North America," he said. "There is a lot of history in the 20th century of Mennonites from certain Mennonite groups not participating in the public Pledge of Allegiance and that sort of thing. There were even court cases that upheld the constitutionality of that."
Goshen College’s decision to return to it’s previous policy of not playing the national anthem comes after a year-long process by administrators to listen to feedback and discussion — a process that reflects how important the complex issue is to the Mennonite-based school.
The college sent out an e-survey to alumni, faculty, staff and students and received more than 4,000 responses, held four campus meetings to discuss the issue, and held nine alumni meetings across the Midwest. A "Listen and Learn" committee of 11 faculty, staff, students and members of the board of directors was also created to review the issue and make a recommendation for future action.
Richard Aguirre, director of public relations at Goshen College, said the issue is far from black and white.
"I think some in the media... have framed it as a debate between those who love country, who honor the military and respect the sacrifice of those who served in the military, and America haters on the other side," he said. "Not only is that an inaccurate framing of the issue, but it’s an offensive one to people who on this campus have in fact served in the military or had relatives who did, but for reasons of conscience don’t support playing the anthem."