Indiana Republican Wants To Outlaw “Unacceptable” Renditions Of The National Anthem

One Indiana State Senator has had enough with people who mangle the Star Spangled Banner:

INDIANAPOLIS — Oh, say can you . . . sing?

And, more importantly, can you sing it the “right” way — the way one Indiana lawmaker thinks the national anthem should be sung?

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, has introduced a bill that would set specific “performance standards” for singing and playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.

The law also would cover private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers.

Performers would have to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians — whether amateur or professional — would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.

But just what is appropriate? Would Jimi Hendrix’s electric version make the grade? Are Christina Aguilera’s vocal gymnastics a fineable offense?

That’s unclear. What is and what is not “acceptable,” according to Becker’s bill, would be determined by the State Department of Education, with input from the Commission for Higher Education.

Becker said she would expect the guidelines to require that the national anthem be sung with the usual lyrics to the traditional melody — “the way that we normally have it sung or heard throughout most of our state and our country.”

Becker said she authored the bill after a constituent called her last spring upset about a school program in which the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner” were substituted or parodied in a way the caller found disrespectful. The senator said she herself had heard parody versions of the national anthem on television programs.XXV

“Sometimes it’s just done in a joking manner,” she said, “but I don’t think the national anthem is something we ought to be joking around with.”

On some level I understand where Becker is coming from. Quite often, the worst part of any major sporting event is when some singer, and I use that term loosely, attempts to sing the National Anthem. If that singer is female, you can almost guarantee that they will use it as an occasion to show off their vocal range on a song that really doesn’t require it. That I kind of blame on Whitney Houston, who’s admittedly amazing performance at Super Bowl XXV has caused an entire generation of female singers to think they can sing like Whitney circa 1991 when they really can’t. And then, of course, there are travesties like Roseanne Barr’s drunken display in 1990. And, of course, Christina Aguilera’s complete disaster at Super Bowl XLV. I can also understand the desire to maintain proper decorum in school settings.

But, does this really require a law? I just don’t see it. As John Cole notes, this seems like something more appropriate in a place like North Korea than the United States of America. There are less egregious means to make sure public assemblies are conducted in a respectful manner, we surely don’t need another law.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    And yet no one passes a law against American Idol.

  2. The fact that Justin Bieber is allowed to freely travel between this nation and Canada is similarly a travesty

  3. “Acceptable”? Would she outlaw Marvin Gaye’s rendition?

    The defence rests.

  4. Bluepen9uin says:

    Cough 1st amendment cough..l

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    Between this and their decision to limit the amount of people who can visit the statehouse (under the guise of “security”) the Republicans of my dear state seem to have no love for free speech.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    One word….Jimi

  7. Ernieyeball says:
  8. Franklin says:

    “If that singer is female, you can almost guarantee that they will use it as an occasion to show off their vocal range on a song that really doesn’t require it.”

    I know what you’re saying here, but among common songs that most Americans know, the Star-Spangled Banner actually requires one of the biggest vocal ranges, as written.

    Regarding the actual bill, it’s so vague and stupid that I don’t know where to begin.

  9. Ernieyeball says:

    “Sometimes it’s just done in a joking manner,” she said, “but I don’t think the national anthem is something we ought to be joking around with.”

    So she wants to regulate humor does she. Maybe it’s about time.

    “Remember, we’re fighting for this woman’s honor, which is probably far more than she’s ever done!” Groucho Marx

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “Sometimes it’s just done in a joking manner,” she said, “but I don’t think the national anthem legislating is something we ought to be joking around with.”

    Fixed that for her.

    Also:@Christopher Bowen: exactly. Gonna have to click thru just cause it’s been a while.

  11. merl says:

    Just imagine what it would be like if the Republican’ts DIDN’T believe in “small government” they would tell us who we could have sex with, what we could smoke, etc. etc.

  12. ed says:

    @Christopher Bowen:

    “Acceptable”? Would she outlaw Marvin Gaye’s rendition?

    Yes. Yes, she would. Next question.

  13. anjin-san says:
  14. matt says:

    @Franklin: As stated above one of the most common complaints about the star spangled banner is that it requires a great deal of vocal range to properly perform it..

  15. 11B40 says:


    Back in early October 2011, I watched the New Yawk Jets – Baltimore Ravens NFL game broadcast by NBC. During the playing of our National Anthem, I noticed that two of Baltimore’s players were wearing some type of close-fitting headwear, one black in color, the other shockingly pink. Later that month, I sent a letter off to the NFL’s Commissioner to bring the situation to his attention in the hope of some remedial action.

    To date, I have received no response to my missive. So, imagine my amusement yesterday when I came across an article that reported that the NFL had fined one of its players, Wes Welker, thousands of dollars for wearing an “unauthorized” hat during his interview by one of the media.

    Forget it, Jake, America doesn’t live here anymore.

  16. Matt says:

    Its funny that substituting words offended someone. the music was originally “The Anacreontic Song”, of English composer John Stafford Smith, which was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London. The words of Key were imposed on the tune.

  17. matt says:

    @Matt: Aye the words of Key were imposed on to several songs through the ages..

  18. rodney dill says:

    If an event or team wants to bind a musician or singer to a certain rendition via contract, then they should do that. There is no need for a law for this to be accomplished.

    As far a artistic freedom, a musician can negotiate with a venue as to how much leeway they get. If the two parties don’t come to terms a different singer/musician can be found.