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Show respect for national anthem in Indiana -- or maybe face fine

January 3, 2012 |  3:56 pm

Roseanne Barr might want to steer clear of Indiana -- if a state lawmaker succeeds in passing legislation to require performance standards for the singing of the national anthem.

A bill by Indiana Sen. Vaneta Becker would impose a $25 fine on anyone who fails to follow the standards while performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at events sponsored by public schools and universities.

Her legislation isn’t aimed at people who sing the national anthem badly, Becker said, but rather those who change the words -- like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who changed "home of the brave" to "home of the Indianapolis 500" while singing the national anthem before the 2001 race.

"It’s not like we’re going after anyone’s ability to sing," Becker said in an interview Tuesday. "It’s more that we just want them to respect the words and the tune as it was originally intended and we normally sing it."

Becker could not say whether Jimi Hendrix’s famous feedback-laden rendition of the national anthem, played at the Woodstock festival in 1969, would violate the standards.

State education officials would set the standards. Anyone seeking to perform the national anthem at schools would be required to sign an agreement to adhere to the rules. Schools would be required to keep recordings of performances for two years.

Becker said that she introduced the measure in response to a complaint from a disabled Vietnam veteran from her district who complained that the national anthem has been "disrespectfully done" at a sporting event.

"Singing our national anthem is often a sign of gratitude to those who have served our country, a tradition I think should be preserved," Becker said in a statement announcing the legislation.

Massachusetts has a decades-old law imposing a fine of up to $100 for playing or singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" "as dance music, as an exit march or as a part of a medley of any kind." Michigan has a similar law, passed in 1931, prohibiting anyone from singing or playing the national anthem in any public place except in its entirety and "without embellishment.''

As for Barr, she drew boos -- but no fine -- at a 1990 San Diego Padres game for her screechy, off-key  rendition of the national anthem.

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-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

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