Mike Pence & President Trump Praise New NFL Policy; Some Christians See Attack on Free Speech

When the NFL on Wednesday announced new rules requiring all players to stand for the national anthem, stay in the locker room if they can’t, or face a fine for breaking them, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence celebrated. But some Christian thinkers and church leaders claim it’s an attack on free speech.

“The vice president tweeted news of the NFL’s new policy and called it ‘#Winning.’ He’s dead wrong. It diminishes the marketplace of ideas. It mocks the convictions of his fellow citizens. And it divides in the name of a false, coerced uniformity,” David French, a prominent Tennessee attorney, Iraq veteran and a senior writer for the conservative National Review, wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times.

French is also a “Never Trump” Republican and a past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that defends and sustains the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities.

He decried the new NFL rules as nothing more than “corporate censorship backed up with a promise of corporate punishment.”

“It’s every bit as oppressive as the campus or corporate attacks on expression that conservatives rightly decry,” he wrote.

Point to Justice Robert Jackson’s 1943 majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, French argued, citing why he believes conservatives who are offended by NFL players protesting should also fight to defend their right to do so.

“At the height of World War II, two sisters, both Jehovah’s Witnesses, challenged the state’s mandate that they salute the flag in school. America was locked in a struggle for its very existence. The outcome was in doubt. National unity was essential,” French wrote.

“But even in the darkest days of war, the court wrote liberating words that echo in legal history: ‘If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,'” he continued.

“Make no mistake, I want football players to stand for the anthem. I want them to respect the flag. As a veteran of the war in Iraq, I’ve saluted that flag in foreign lands and deployed with it proudly on my uniform. But as much as I love the flag, I love liberty even more,” he added.

Asked about the new NFL policy in a Fox News interview Wednesday, Trump, who had advocated for a policy in the NFL that would prevent players from protesting, welcomed the move and said if players can’t stand for the national anthem, they shouldn’t even be in the country.

“Well I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms but still you have to stand proudly for the national anthem. You shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. And the NFL owners did the right thing,” Trump said.

Pence’s initial response to the policy change was to post a screenshot of a CNN headline announcing the policy change and the now viral phrase “#Winning.”

“Today’s decision by the @NFL is a win for the fans, a win for @POTUS, and a win for America. Americans can once again come together around what unites us — our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL. #ProudToStand,” Pence wrote in a follow-up tweet.

Carl Lentz, lead pastor at New York City’s Hillsong Church who has previously challenged Christians to pay attention to the NFL players’ protest against injustice, tried to draw attention to the issue again in a series of tweets on Thursday.

“The NFL doesn’t want players kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the justice system because MOST of its huge white fan base, absolutely hates it. That’s all this is. They are doing what business[es] tend to do. Cater to the money,” he wrote.

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Source: Christian Post