The Alabama Senate Education Policy Committee on Wednesday passed a controversial piece of legislation that would require Alabama’s public schools to perform the American national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" – by Francis Scott Key, a minimum of once a week. Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) called the bill and the anthem “racist” and responded by angrily attempting to filibuster as much of the Senate calendar as possible.
Senate Bill 127 is sponsored by State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa).
SB127 is an amendment to the Alabama Constitution.
According to the synopsis, “this bill would propose an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to require local boards of education to adopt policies requiring each K-12 public school to broadcast or sanction the performance of the first stanza of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at the commencement of each school-sanctioned sporting event and at least once per week at each public school during school hours.”
State Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) asked when the bill was in committee if that would also apply to the legislature.
Allen replied, “That is a great idea.”
Figures responded, “If you are inflicting this on others you should inflict this on yourself too.”
Smitherman said, “This is racism. This is totally intolerable.”
“If you are going to sing one national anthem you should play every national anthem,” Smitherman said. “The Black national anthem is ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’. If there are any other national anthems, Asian, Hispanic, etc. they should also be required.”
“The third verse is racist."
Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) asked, “What is being required?”
“Just the first verse,” Allen answered.
State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) made the motion to give SB127 a favorable report.
Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) seconded the motion, and the bill was given a favorable report by the committee on a five to three vote.
Later, when the legislature went into session, Smitherman continued to speak about racism and the last 400 years of American history where Blacks were largely marginalized by the White majority in this country.
“Making little Black children sing this is just wrong,” Smitherman said. “It is racist.”
SB127 is co-sponsored by Sens. Waggoner, Stutts, Butler, Sessions, Livingston, Elliott, Marsh, Williams, Jones, Beasley, Barfoot, Weaver, Scofield, Price, Albritton, McClendon, Shelnutt, Orr, Gudger, Whatley, Roberts, Chesteen, Melson and Chambliss thus has enough votes already to pass the Senate if and when it is brought to the floor.
Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was asked by reporters on Thursday if he had spoken with Smitherman about his concerns about the bill.
“Sen. Smitherman has very strong views, but so do the members that support this,” Reed said.
The full Senate could address this proposed Constitutional amendment as soon as Tuesday. Tuesday will be day seven of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.
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