Pastor tells entire church to stay seated during national anthem: 'Stand for something'

Posted September 14

Pastor Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple Church in Baltimore encouraged his entire congregation to stay seated while he played the national anthem during service.

Bryant's controversial act was a concerted effort to publicly stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers player who has been in the headlines of late over his decision to sit down during the "Star-Spangled Banner."

The preacher also wore a signed Kaepernick jersey during the service, later sharing an Instagram photo of himself donning it along with the caption: "Today was amazing … preached in my frat brother (Kaepernick) signed jersey and the entire church sat during 'Star-Spangled Banner' with raised fist!"

Before Bryant delivered his sermon, he also posted a Periscope video unveiling the jersey to his followers and pledging to wear it in the sanctuary.

"I'm preaching in this all day long. This is my robe for the day," he said. "I'm giving out communion in this today."

During the sermon that followed, Bryant encouraged parishioners to stand in solidarity with Kaepernick.

"You gotta be able to stand for something," Bryant said during his sermon. "I wanted (Kaepernick) to know that there's a conscientious black church in Baltimore that's got his back."

He then called for the church to join him in sitting down as the national anthem played, calling it an "act of civil disobedience to remind America of what we stand for" and inviting veterans to the front of the sanctuary to sit with him.

During his remarks, Bryant also cited the accusation that some of the lyrics in the "Star-Spangled Banner" are racist. At issue is what called the "rarely sung third stanza," which reads, in part, "No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave."

Watch Bryant's remarks here.

Some historians have charged that this is a reference to black slaves who fought for the British during the War of 1812 in exchange for their freedom (known as the Corps of Colonial Marines), though others have pushed back against that notion.

One other theory is that the words referenced the British Navy's use of impressment, which involved kidnapping sailors and forcing them to fight on their behalf, though there are other ideas. "Star-Spangled Banner" author Francis Scott Key purportedly never clarified what he meant, according to

University of Michigan music professor Mark Clague recently wrote a CNN op-ed diving into the contentious debate, arguing that black soldiers also fought on the American side and that the song honored everyone, both black and white.

"Kaepernick's star-spangled protest is part of this tradition, and thus is a productive call for Americans to make this 'land of the free' serve all its people," he said. "However, related claims about the song and its author as especially racist have been distorted and exaggerated."

Either way, the battle is likely nowhere near over.

The debate touched off last month when Kaepernick decided to sit down during the national anthem.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he later told NFL Media. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."

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