Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s take on anthem protests is wrong. Here’s why

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s take on anthem protests is wrong. Here’s why
Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore said he believes kneeling for the national anthem is against the law. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is a former state chief justice, so he seems like a man who can be trusted on matters of law, right?

Not when it comes to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, apparently. Moore said in an interview with Time Magazine that it’s illegal to take a knee during the national anthem. That’s simply not the case.

What did he say?

Here are the quotes:

“It’s against the law, you know that?” Moore said. “It was an act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law.

“I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds,” he said. “One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up.

“If they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law,” he said. “If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?

Where did he get that idea?

He seems to be referencing a section of the United States Code, which is, well, a code. Not a law. It reads as follows:

Title 36 (section 171) of the United States Code:

(b) Conduct During Playing. — During a rendition of the national anthem —

  • (1) when the flag is displayed —
    • (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
    • (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
    • (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
  • (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed

Codes don’t carry legal penalties, which is a good thing for a lot of people who violate the codes frequently, such as the U.S. Flag Code that says the flag shouldn’t be carried flat or horizontally, that it should never be used for advertising purposes “in any manner whatsoever,” or that no part of it shall ever be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform.

Per the Congressional Research Service:

“The Flag Code is a codification of customs and rules established for the use of certain civilians and civilian groups. No penalty or punishment is specified in the Flag Code for display of the flag of the United States in a manner other than as suggested. Cases … have concluded that the Flag Code does not proscribe conduct, but is merely declaratory and advisory.”

Other legal issues

This isn’t the first time Moore’s personal opinions have run contrary to the actual law, which doesn’t work well when you’re a judge. He’s been removed from the bench twice.

He once defied a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from courthouse grounds, and he continued to enforce a gay marriage ban that had been overturned by the Supreme Court.

178 Comments