Applauding the National Anthem in Church

A reader recently asked the following questions:

This last weekend the Church I attend had our annual 9/11 commemorative with Col. Oliver North as special guest. Part of the Sunday Service was the singing of the National Anthem. After we sang the Anthem everybody applauded. I have two etiquette questions:

1. Is it improper to applaud in Church?

2. Is it improper to applaud after the National Anthem?

Addressing the first question, yes it is improper to applaud in church during a church service. The focus of the service is God and to applaud during the service would mean we were applauding God. However, when musicians or speakers give a performance in a church, outside of a church service, it is permissible to applaud the performers. The building itself does not dictate the protocol for applause, the function held within the building determines the protocol.

The answer to the second question is not as clear. I have not found any written protocol about applause after the National Anthem. The only written protocol instructs us to rise and remain standing during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Past generations will tell you it is improper to applaud after the National Anthem. Traditionally, we sat down quietly at the completion of the anthem. However, there has been a change of attitude in our society in recent years, especially after 9/11. When groups applaud the National Anthem, they are expressing a shared patriotism for their country.

In today’s society, we do not have a steadfast rule about applause after the National Anthem. We need to consider each situation individually. If the National Anthem is being played at a sporting event, patriotic applause is appropriate. If it is being played during a solemn affair, definitely hold the applause and show your respect silently.

Perhaps having this freedom of choice is yet another intended gift from our ancestors and the many who have given their lives for us.

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