To the Editor:
As I was driving past St. Kevin Church on Sandy Lane in Warwick, on October 12, I noticed the church’s marquee. It said, “Take a knee for God. Stand for the flag.”
This short message really bothered me on so many levels, but especially because it appeared on the grounds of a church that also houses a Catholic school. I am a strong believer in First Amendment protections, protections that prevent our government from telling us whether or how to worship or express ourselves. The clergy at St. Kevin have a right to speak their minds, but it seems to me their message is sadly misguided.
How can the clerics of St. Kevin judge the true intent of those who kneel during the playing of the national anthem? The players often bow their heads. Could they be praying to God for social justice in America? Could they be asking for racial equality and fair treatment when African Americans come in contact with the police? Could they be asking God about why unarmed black men and women often end up shot dead by police here in the country of their birth? Why is taking a knee, a very silent and dignified form of protest against racial injustice during the national anthem, such an affront to America and St. Kevin?
Our country began as protest and that first protest was certainly not peaceful. The Boston Tea Party involved trespass and destruction of private property. Today, that protest is taught in schools as a brave and justified act, a demonstration against oppression. Jesus was a protester as well and not always a peaceful one. He stormed into the temple courts and chased away those he thought were corrupting the temple.
This less than peaceful protest in a place of worship is recounted today as an example of the righteousness of Jesus. Does a football player quietly taking a knee in front of our flag to make America see the lack of racial justice deserve to be scorned and called unpatriotic? What would Jesus say about that? And what does the flag mean?
To me, it stands for the ideals of our country including freedom of speech and equal protection of the law as defined by the 14th Amendment. I appreciate those brave Americans of all backgrounds who protect our country at home and abroad, but the flag does not belong to law enforcement and the military alone. Those who peacefully demonstrated for civil rights can also claim ownership of the flag. The blood of those four young black girls who died in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham are an important part of the sacrifice that our flag stands for.
Silently taking a knee when the American flag is displayed and the national anthem is sung is not disrespectful to the flag or our country. It is a respectful plea that our country complete its promise to all of our citizens that we all must be treated equally under the law. That is the lesson St. Kevin’s should be teaching to its young students in school and the homily that Father Marciano should be delivering on Sunday in remembrance of Jesus as a moral advocate for those treated unfairly. I think St. Kevin Church needs a new message on its marquee, one that reminds all of us that our nation pledges “liberty and justice for all.”