On Thursday night, the latest class of recruits for the Baltimore County (Maryland) Fire Depart held their graduation ceremony, which included a singing of the National Anthem.
Three of the graduates didn’t salute the flag like their colleagues… and that infuriated at least one attendee, who called it “an absolute disgrace.”
This shouldn’t be a problem at all given that saluting the flag isn’t a law, just as kneeling during the Anthem doesn’t mean you hate your country but rather that you want it to be better.
But this wasn’t even a protest.
According to the county, the three graduates were not reprimanded in any way for their refusal because they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they don’t believe they should “worship” anyone but God. Saluting the flag, to them, violates their faith. (It’s the same reason Jehovah’s Witnesses were some of the original protesters of mandatory Pledge of Allegiance recitations in public schools.)
The Fire Department even acknowledged that in a separate Facebook post:
… These new BCoFD members are Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose faith prohibits displays of national allegiance. They are successful graduates with a commitment to public service. BCoFD respects members of all faiths, as well as the Constitutional right to free speech…
That’s a decent statement, since the only thing that should matter is the graduates’ ability to do the job, but the city could’ve gone farther in saying that recruits would not have been punished even if they had protested the flag. Free speech would apply there, too, right?
What’s important is that the only people whose opinions matter here — the city officials — respect the recruits’ civil rights. There are plenty of voices online treating these firefighters like traitors. I guess it doesn’t matter that the three graduates are about to risk their lives to help complete strangers. But those conservatives should be mocked, challenged, or ignored.
They’re so ignorant that they would rather force people to salute the flag instead of honoring them for dedicating their careers to public service.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)