Nashville Statement Question: Are GLBT Christians Saved?

Nashville logoSince the Nashville Statement was published by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a focus of criticism has been Article 10 which states:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

The president of the Council is Denny Burk. About Article 10, Burk wrote:

That is why Article 10 of The Nashville Statement is as important as any other article before you today… We are not arguing today about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. We are not spinning our wheels about adiaphora or some issue of moral indifference. We are declaring what it means to be a male or female image-bearer. We are defining the nature of the marriage covenant and of the sexual holiness and virtue. To get these questions wrong is to walk away from Jesus not to him. There is no more central concern than that.
Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about. Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.

Some observers have interpreted Article 10 as a claim that GLBT Christians and those who affirm them are not Christians at all. Saying that those who reject the Nashville Statement are “rejecting Christianity altogether” appears to be a strong statement about salvation and so it isn’t completely clear what the CBMW authors and signers have in mind.
Over the past week, I asked several Nashville Statement authors and signers how they understood Article 10. Most said the article wasn’t a statement about salvation. However, the CBMW and leaders involved in the group (e.g., Denny Burk) haven’t answered direct requests for an interpretation.

Differences of Opinion Among Signers

One signer, radio host and minister Michael Brown, said God is the “ultimate judge” of who is saved and who isn’t. However, he added that, in his view, the article is pertinent to the topic of salvation. In response to my question about the meaning of Article X, Brown told me

God alone is the ultimate judge of who is saved and lost, but yes, I believe this is equivalent to a couple living in adultery. The Word says those who practice adultery will not inherit God’s kingdom, and therefore it is heretical to state they will (1 Cor 6:9-10).
But definitions are important here.
If by “gay Christians” you mean practicing homosexuals, I would say they cannot follow Jesus and practice homosexuality at the same time. (Again, God is their ultimate judge and He knows whether they are in ignorance or rebellion.) If you mean people who struggle with SSA but seek to honor the Lord, of course they can struggle while following Jesus. They are champions with whom we stand strong.
Can I say that someone is not saved if they affirm homosexual practice? Certainly, I cannot say that.
Can I say they are embracing heresy? That they are no longer evangelical? That they are endangering their souls and the souls of others? Absolutely.
This has been my position all along, so it was easy for me to sign on here.

Brown seems to hedge a bit but leans toward doubting the profession of salvation by a GLBT Christian. On the other hand, signer and Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior believes Article 10 refers to orthodoxy and not salvation. She said:

I see an important and crucial distinction between the word “faithfulness” (the word used in the statement) and the word “faith.”  A departure from “Christian faithfulness and witness” is not the same as a departure from “the Christian faith.”  I was surprised and dismayed that some people seem to see those two words as having the same meaning.

This is an important question. If the Nashville Statement authors and signers intend to limit salvation to those who affirm the statement, then Romans 10:13 will need to be reworded.

Those who call on the name of the Lord and affirm the Nashville Statement on GLBT issues shall be saved.

Nashville Statement signers, what do you think Article 10 means?

If you signed the statement, please leave a comment. What do you think Article 10 is all about? If you didn’t sign it, what is your impression of it?

Biblical Counseling v. Christian Psychology: Tim Allchin Reacts to McConnell and Throckmorton

In this final article in the Biblical Counseling v. Christian psychology series, Biblical counselor Tim Allchin provides his reactions to A.J. McConnell and me. I will have some additional remarks at the conclusion of this post.

Allchin: Thank you for letting me take part in this series.  I enjoyed the interaction and perspectives and the shared heart we have for helping this young man thrive (click here for the case of school refusal).  I also appreciated the fact that we could disagree without choosing to divert the conversation into name-calling or mockery.  Too many of these conversations have carried the tonality that was often found in the comments section but the main articles modeled a better way of interaction.  I hope biblical counselors and Christian psychologist and secular counselors can learn from each other and learn to discuss our differences with respect.  We will often disagree, but Christian counselors must be committed to conversations that are full of grace and truth.
Regarding the case study, I agree with Dr. Allen Frances when he states that “accurate diagnosis in kids is really tough and time consuming. Misdiagnosis in kids is really easy and can be done in 10 minutes. Accurate diagnosis in kids leads to helpful interventions that can greatly improve future life. Misdiagnosis in kids often leads to harmful medication and haunting stigma.”  All three counselors clearly care about the child and want him to be treated carefully and bring different perspectives to the table.

Two questions I would raise in response to the critiques of biblical counseling and the case study mentioned:

What is the best way to view anxiety?  Is anxiety a cognitive, physiological or spiritual issue? It is all three.  Anxiety is not best viewed as purely a physiological disorder disconnected from any current or past thought process that have solidified one’s viewpoint of life.  This is confirmed by the fact that the evidenced based research confirms CBT is the most effective mental health treatment for anxiety disorders.  I agree with AJ’s statement, “a child with this condition, is experiencing a significant amount of fear that they do not know how to respond to appropriately.” Even adults don’t know how to respond to our fears on our own.   More than 500 times in scripture the condition of fear is address either in command or narrative.   Why is this such a strong theme?  Fear is part of our fallen condition which needs to be redeemed and transformed.  It is there from birth and in some ways will be there till we die, but hope for the anxious is not found in relaxation, medicine or distractions.  It is found in the cross, where Jesus died and where the new creation is consummated.  Our anchor in anxiety within a Christian counseling model should be Romans 8:38-39  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we have the hope of the world, why would we hide it?
Anxiety is clearly a spiritual condition as well if we are to take seriously the words of Jesus, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” “which one of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life,” “Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”  In the case of PANDA’s (which is likely a small portion of overall anxiety cases), physiological feelings that mimic the physiological feelings of anxiety are not the same as cognitive and spiritual anxiety. Throckmorton writes, “Depression, panic disorders, eating disorders, etc., represent mind-body dysfunctions which require the help of science to understand and treat. I appreciate that Tim Allchin recommends good medical care, but in doing so it appears to me that he goes beyond the scope of the 95 Theses.” But Heath Lambert writes in Theses 84 “It is a misunderstanding of the essential nature of human beings—with a body and a soul—for Christians to minimize the importance of medical treatment in their care for troubled people (1 Tim 5:23).”  If any part of anxiety is a spiritual issue, then it is a heart issue. Again Lambert asserts in Theses 83,  “It is a misunderstanding of the essential nature of human beings—made with a body and a soul—for Christians to present physical interventions as solutions to spiritual problems.”  In reality, every counseling issue is also a spiritual heart issue (Proverbs 4:23).  With our heart, we choose to care for our God-given body (I Cor. 3:16-17).  With our heart, we choose to embrace new ways of thinking about our anxieties (I Peter 5:7-9).  We respond to physical pain, emotional trauma, and relational disappointment with a spiritual response, not just a physical one (James 1:2-4).  Certainly, we need a medical response to physiological issues, but thriving physiology is not sufficient to help people thrive.  They need to know, fear and love God to thrive.  This is an essential evangelical commitment that shouldn’t be placed aside, even in the counseling office.
Why does this matter?  Throckmorton writes “Techniques are judged by their utility in solving a problem.”  Biblical counselors would insist that anxieties are both physiological and spiritual in nature.  Just because you might be able to sever the physiological difficulties associated with anxiety does not mean that you have solved the spiritual struggle of anxiety.  It’s not that we would minimize the physiological care, but we would see it as inadequate and incomplete for holistic care. Second, we would view many physiological symptoms that accompany anxiety as able to be reduced through healthier thought patterns and physical care (sleep, exercise, nutrition and structure) in keeping with the pattern laid out in scripture.   The spirit of man is real, even if it can’t be measured and it needs to be treated.  Conversely, the spirit of man resides within a physical body that impacts how the spirit functions and it needs to be treated as well.  This dualist nature of man is routinely described within the commands and narratives of scripture and corresponds with good science in the contemporary culture.   It also corresponds how the Christian church has wrestled with these issues through the entirety of the history of the church.  I like how David Powlison brings a balance to this tension, “If you don’t seek to meet people’s physical needs, it’s heartless. But if you don’t give people the crucified, risen and returning Christ, it’s hopeless.”
Does biblical compliance help a young person thrive? 
Throckmorton’s critique of biblical counseling was that the “biblical counseling approach is wrong to put emphasis on lack of biblical compliance, especially with childhood mental health concerns. It is too easy to feel false guilt tied to the belief that mental and emotional problems stem from lack of biblical compliance. This focus can also distract a counselor from more pressing problems in a client’s life.”  I would ask in response,  “Is there ever a downside to someone who chooses biblical compliance as a way of life?”  For instance, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” “my ways are not burdensome,” and “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  How could a Christian counseling model not intentionally teach that biblical compliance is of utmost importance to thrive in life?
Biblical Counseling is careful lest we create “better functioning rebels” who behavior and symptoms improve but whose heart is no more tender towards the Lord.  I would argue that all of us in our natural state are rebels and offensive towards God.  This applies to everyone regardless of what diagnosis they face.  The cancer patient is a rebel towards God.  However, the Bible does not teach that cancer is a punishment for sin or that the cancer patient received cancer because of their sin.  Still, “no one is righteous, not one.” However, I absolutely agree that Jesus’s conversation were deeper than simply than a declaration of the sinfulness of humanity. They were full of questions that revealed grace, hope, judgment, doctrine, empathy and correction. They were the full orb of conversational dynamics that were flexible to meet the heart condition of those he encountered.  He was the “good shepherd” in every way.  His conversations sought to increase the faith of those he came in contact with.  Those who were seeking answers, terminally ill, spiritually tormented, downtrodden from life, trapped in sin, oppressed by systemic injustice, hard-hearted by traditions, similar heart conditions to those who would often seek counsel in any psychologists or biblical counselors office today.  Jesus had an agenda to seek to strengthen their faith and love for him.   This is at the core of Christianity.  Biblical compliance without heart change was offensive to Jesus. He referred to it as “whitewashing a tombstone.”
Finishing with a few things I learned:
Biblical counselors are always looking for creative ways to help people apply the principles of the Word of God to everyday situations.  Both psychologists gave some creative answers about how to help a young person thrive and to help his parents love him well.  I appreciated reading the creativity and much of that is adaptable in a biblical counseling context.
Christian psychologists and biblical counselors often speak about the same things in different language.  It required all of us to be patient to understand the perspectives that each brings to the table. I think we made a good attempt to do that and the christian counseling community would benefit if we all did that more.

I have appreciated the tone and content of this exchange involving Allchin and McConnell. I believe the series is a good model for how to discuss deep differences among counselors of various types.

My Response to Allchin

Regarding Allchin’s remarks, I am skeptical of the following claims:

Allchin: What is the best way to view anxiety?  Is anxiety a cognitive, physiological or spiritual issue? It is all three.

Sometimes it is all three and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes and for some people, anxiety comes as the result of faulty thinking and/or a lack of trust. At other times and for other people, anxiety is more like a faulty fire alarm. It just goes off with a full blown anxiety reaction without any spiritual or cognitive trigger. Effective counseling interventions reflect the assessment of different types of anxiety. While I might consider emphasizing patience in the case of anxiety as faulty fire alarm, I would not be inclined to use verses about one kind of fear as an intervention for another kind of fear. Lumping all experiences of anxiety together can lead to misapplications and ultimately unhelpful interventions.

Allchin:  Certainly, we need a medical response to physiological issues, but thriving physiology is not sufficient to help people thrive.  They need to know, fear and love God to thrive.  This is an essential evangelical commitment that shouldn’t be placed aside, even in the counseling office.

We don’t have a definition of thrive, but I am skeptical about this in a general sense. According to Christianity, we need to know God to be redeemed. If thriving is defined as being in a relationship with God, then only those in such a relationship can be described as thriving. However, non-believers prosper and can be well-adjusted and happy.
Another problem I have with this statement is the claim that evangelical commitments shouldn’t be placed aside in the counseling office. While that may be defensible when counseling Christians who seek it, I can’t see how this works with non-believers.

Allchin: Just because you might be able to sever the physiological difficulties associated with anxiety does not mean that you have solved the spiritual struggle of anxiety.  It’s not that we would minimize the physiological care, but we would see it as inadequate and incomplete for holistic care.

Allchin argues that a spiritual struggle must invariably occur with anxiety as a psychophysiological experience. I disagree. Anxiety might provoke a spiritual crisis but I believe anxiety can happen to any human, no matter how spiritually sound. For me, the care of the individual is what drives how holistic my interventions will be.
Allchin takes my disinterest in biblical compliance in the case of the school refusal as a sign that I minimize or disregard compliance with the Bible.

Allchin: I would ask in response,  “Is there ever a downside to someone who chooses biblical compliance as a way of life?”

I never argued that being compliant with the Bible isn’t a good thing. I did argue that we should not assume that non-compliance is behind the problems bring to counseling. Since I didn’t see any link between the school refusal symptoms and the boy’s religious life, why would I spend time focusing on something that wasn’t mission critical?
Allchin’s answer is that all people are sinners and so all people need an intervention at that level. While I agree that all people are fallible and subject to problems, I don’t think Christian counselors must address specific sin as a component of medical and psychological treatment.


Again, I appreciate the participation of Drs. Allchin and McConnell. The exchange has taught me a lot about Biblical counseling and helped me sharpen my perspectives.

Is the Nashville Statement Irenic?

Nashville logoWilliam Lane Craig said it is irenic but I think the answer may depend on which side of the line you are on.

Irenic – (adjective) aiming or aimed at peace. (noun) a part of Christian theology concerned with reconciling different denominations and sects.

Written and promoted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the Nashville Statement is a series of affirmations and denials which condemns affirmation of GLBT people. The statement has been criticized by gay affirming and traditional Christians alike on various grounds.
A recent signer touted by the CBMW is Christian apologist William Lane Craig. In a statement tweeted by the Council, Craig said:

Given the level of controversy over the statement, it is hard to understand how the Nashville Statement brings Christians together. In fact, it brought some Christians together while excluding others.
One purpose of the Nashville Statement, according to one of the authors Denny Burk, is to draw a line in the sand. Article 10 of the statement reads:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

About that article, Burk said:

Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about. Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.

Signer Peter Sprigg said this about the statement:

Anyone who cannot agree with the affirmations and denials in the Nashville Statement has essentially departed from biblical and historical Christian orthodoxy.

I don’t think the authors and signers mean the statement to be about peace.
Catholics have signed the evangelical statement. New signer William Lane Craig’s take on the deity and humanity of Christ has raised some eyebrows. Various views of the trinity are represented among the signers. Some signers believe Christians can lose their salvation and others don’t.* Apparently, these are now minor differences compared to differences regarding views of sexual orientation and gender identity.
So a bunch of Christians have gathered together on one side of the line and others have gathered on the other side of the line.  Those who are aware of the statement have come together against each other. In this view of irenic, I suppose you could say gays are an irenogenic force.
I say the Nashville Statement is irenic like Donald Trump is irenic. Polarizing might be a better word.

The Romans Statement is an Irenic Statement

To me, an irenic statement is the one found in Romans 10: 6-13.

6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If GLBT people believe in Jesus, according to the Roman Statement, they will never be put to shame. It takes Jesus’ followers to do that. By now, there are over 17,000 of them (click on signers) irenically on their side of the line.
Whatever beliefs one holds, I hope we can work a little harder to discuss them a bit more irenically.

Do Gays Stay Saved?

Over the past week, I have asked several signers of the Nashville Statement if Article 10 means that gays are not saved (“an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness”). I would really like to know what the authors of the Nashville Statement believe about this. Romans 10 seems clear that the matter is pretty simple, but Article 10 raises questions about what kind of gospel is being affirmed by this statement. Very few signers have commented and so the ambiguity remains. I would like to hear from any signers about what you believe Article 10 to mean regarding redemption.
*I have talked to several who have different views on whether or not gays remain saved if they identify as gay.

Biblical Counseling and Sufficiency of the Bible

counseling image 2I am in the process of evaluating the 95 Theses published by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. The first post is here.  Today, I evaluate theses six through eleven. These statements seem to be key components of biblical counseling.

6. When people experience difficulties as they live in a fallen world, they require wisdom about life to help them face these problems (Prov 19:20).
7. The wisdom to confront life’s difficulties is most often communicated in conversations our culture refers to as counseling.
8. The issues of concern in counseling pertain to problems people face as they relate the difficulties in their life to the faith and practice described in Scripture.

I agree that counseling conversations often relate to common problems with work and family and that clients often want advice about them. I also agree that many problems in living are illustrated in Bible stories. In these situations, Christians could be well served by getting advice from someone who has studied the Bible thoroughly and has a knack for application. However, I don’t believe that all counseling problems involve requests for advice or guidance. Some relate to mental illness in self or others. I will say more about those counseling conversations below.
Furthermore, people today face problems never contemplated by people in the Bible. For instance, advice about what college to attend, what major to take, or what career to pursue, etc. are all specific issues which require specific, individualized conversations. The Bible doesn’t give any specific advice about how to choose a college or academic major.
Although clients may benefit from biblical principles about decision making, a conversation about the specific college and major still requires an individualized focus which could involve various career assessments and information about occupations not mentioned in the Bible.

9. Because counseling problems concern the very same issues that God writes about in his Word, it is essential to have a conversation about the contents of the Bible to solve counseling problems.

I may not understand the meaning of this statement, but on the surface, it seems inadequate and unrealistic. Frequently, counseling problems are similar to those described in the Bible, but often they are much different. We live in a different era and culture. There are daily demands which are radically different than anything reported in the Bible.

10. The subject matter of counseling conversations is the wisdom needed to deal with life’s problems, and so counseling is not a discipline that is fundamentally informed by science, but by the teaching found in God’s Word.

As I demonstrated in my article on school refusal, all conversations don’t require Bible knowledge in order to address the problems people bring to counseling. We could have talked about the Bible in my sessions with the school refusal family, but I can’t see how it would have addressed the main reason they came to see me. On the contrary, we discussed a solution which did not come from my study of the Bible but rather my study of family systems theory. I could have consulted the Bible for days and not come up with that.
Although the case of the boy with school refusal ended well, I now realize he might have had a medical problem which triggered separation anxiety. The problem I wrote about — PANDAS — was discovered by scientists at the NIMN, not theologians in the Bible. There are many other problems which afflict humans in the mind and mood which we have come to understand through science. Counselors, biblical or otherwise, ask for trouble when research is ignored.

11. When the Bible claims to address all the issues concerning life and godliness, it declares itself to be a sufficient and an authoritative resource to address everything essential for counseling conversations (2 Pet 1:3-4).

Actually, these verses don’t say that the Bible addresses “everything essential for counseling interventions.” I think Dr. Lambert and his supporters engage in eisegesis and not exegesis of these verses. Second Peter 1:3-4 reads:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Through His divine power, we have the Bible (although the New Testament wasn’t fully together at this time), we have the Holy Spirit and the church. These resources provide sufficient moral teaching to let us know what God requires of us. Because of those divine resources, we can have a place in God’s Kingdom. This is Peter’s focus in the chapter.
However, the Bible does not promise to provide the best way to assess and treat medical and mental disorders. I can’t find that promise in 2 Peter or anywhere else. Those disorders are valid subjects of counseling conversations. Often with the involvement of several healthcare professionals, people find relief from these problems.
Peter promises that resources are available to live “a godly life” not a problem-free life. As a matter of experience, I have known many godly people who experience mental and emotional disorders. Godly Christians and non-Christians experience these conditions. Assertions to the contrary are contrary to reality.  I believe biblical counselors who hold to thesis eleven read into 2 Peter something that wasn’t intended.
The authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling is the key tenet of biblical counseling. There are numerous overlapping statements in the 95 Theses. I will pick up my critique of this theme in the next post.
To read all posts in the 95 Theses series, click here.

The National Anthem Controversy and the McCain-Flake Report on Paid Patriotism

Paid Patriotism
As a memory refresh, here is what President Trump said about athletes who take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before sporting events. Primarily he aimed this at professional football players. Watch:

In the clip above, Trump called on National Football League team owners to fire protesting players and asserted that owners should tell respond, “‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” when a player protests during the anthem.
These comments have ignited another firestorm with Trump at the center.
What gets lost in the battle between protest supporters and opponents is the fact that prior to 2009, players on the field for the anthem during primetime wasn’t routine (for more specifics on the history of the anthem and the NFL, see this article). In fact, since then and until recently, many pre-game ceremonies are purchased with tax payer funds. Based on a report by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, “paid patriotism” has benefited NFL teams at a hefty cost to tax payers. In fact, the Department of Defense has paid sports teams to put on patriotic displays in order to aid recruitment. From the report:

Dear Taxpayer,
In 2013, a roaring crowd cheered as the Atlanta Falcons welcomed ϴϬ National Guard members who unfurled an American flag across the Georgia Dome’s turf. Little did those fans—or millions of other Americans—know that the National Guard had actually paid the Atlanta Falcons for this display of patriotism as part of a $315,000 marketing contract.
This unfortunate story is not limited to professional football, but is repeated at other professional and college sporting events around the nation. In fact, these displays of paid patriotism are included within the $6.8 million that the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent on sports marketing contracts since fiscal year 2012.
Consider this: Honoring five Air Force Officers put $1,500 into the pockets of the L.A. Galaxy. In another example, taxpayers footed the $10,000 bill for an on-field swearing-in ceremony with the World Series finalist New York Mets. And the list goes on. By paying for such heartwarming displays like recognition of wounded warriors, surprise homecomings, and on-field enlistment ceremonies, these displays lost their luster. Unsuspecting audience members became the subjects of paid-marketing campaigns rather than simply bearing witness to teams’ authentic, voluntary shows of support for the brave men and women who wear our nation’s uniform. This not only betrays the sentiment and trust of fans, but casts an unfortunate shadow over the genuine patriotic partnerships that do so much for our troops, such as the National Football League’s Salute to the Service campaign.
While many professional sporting teams do include patriotic events as a pure display of national pride, this report highlights far too many instances when that is simply not the case. When our offices first discovered this practice, we sought to better understand it from DOD and introduced an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to end these taxpayer funded salutes to the troops.
The United States Senate’s oversight has worked. DOD has banned paid patriotism and the NFL has called on all clubs to stop accepting payment for patriotic salutes.
However, more work remains. Despite our success curbing this inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, DOD still cannot fully account for the nature and extent of paid patriotism activities. In fact, more than a third of the contracts highlighted in this report were not included in DOD’s list; instead, our offices discovered the additional contracts through our own investigative work. In the end, two-thirds of the contracts found by our offices or reported by DOD contained some form of paid patriotism. Direct and persistent sunlight is the best way to ensure that such activities are not continued. What follows is not an exhaustive list of all DOD sports marketing contracts, but a selection of clear examples where taxpayers—not the teams—paid for patriotism and VIP perks. It is time to allow major sports teams’ legitimate tributes to our soldiers to shine with national pride rather than being cast under the pallor of marketing gimmicks paid for by American taxpayers.

No wonder some players feel the anthem is an appropriate vehicle to express their opinions. The DOD and NFL have been using those pre-game events to conduct business and put on a show. Now that athletes want to exercise their First Amendment rights with no cost to anyone, they are demonized for it.
In any case, requiring players to stand for the national anthem is a recent practice. One should not argue that the players who take a knee or do something other than stand are violating a time honored tradition.
Personally, I think peaceful protest is noble and should not be discouraged. In any case, America is not a totalitarian regime where ideological compliance with the rulers is required. For this reason, Donald Trump’s encouragement to NFL owners to fire protesting players is especially distressing.