A state lawmaker in Indiana has introduced a bill that would set specific "performance standards" for renditions of the national anthem.
The legislation, drafted by state Sen. Vaneta Becker (R), creates guidelines for what constitutes an "appropriate" performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The law would apply to all performers at events sponsored by public schools and state universities, who would be required to sign a contract acknowledging the rules. Anyone intentionally violating the law could be slapped with a $25 fine.
So what constitutes an inappropriate performance? Becker says the law wouldn't apply to performers who simply lack talent, but she told the Indianapolis Star that she expects performances to hew to the traditional, "the way that we normally have it sung or heard throughout most of our state and our country." The guidelines would be determined by the State Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education.
Becker told the Star that a constituent had raised concern about the issue after a local school program supposedly parodied the words of the anthem in an objectionable way.
Becker said she understands that such performances are sometimes done just for fun, but she doesn't find them funny.
"I don't think the national anthem is something we ought to be joking around with," Becker said.
And Becker seems quite serious about enforcing the new strictures. Her bill would require schools to keep a two-year audio record of all performances and come up with a protocol for dealing with those that are found to be inappropriate by the State Department of Education.
Becker's proposal isn't a new one, however, nor is it the most strict.
Massachusetts has a law forbidding the use of "The Star Spangled Banner" as "dance music, as an exit march or as a part of a medley of any kind." Renowned composer Igor Stravinsky was allegedly jailed for violating this law after "embellishing" the anthem during a concert at the Boston Symphony Hall.
Michigan also has strict guidelines concerning the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner," requiring it to be played "without embellishments."
Federal law also lays out a procedure for people present during the anthem's playing, mandating that men remove their hats, and that everyone "face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart."