News & Politics

Since When Do You Need a Permit to Sing the National Anthem at the 9/11 Memorial?

You may recall some of the controversy surrounding the construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. A “gift shop” that sold a 9/11 cheese plate. A film about al-Qaeda that never mentioned “Islamic terrorism.” And after promising there would be no admission fee, the board decided to charge a $24 general admission fee with “all access” tours that cost up to $109.

But if it’s controversy you want, how about a rulebook that is just chock full of all sorts of things you can’t do? Some of them are commonsense rules you would find at any museum.

But at the 9/11 Memorial, groups are forbidden from singing any song unless they have a permit.

A middle school choir from North Carolina found that out the hard way when they began singing the national anthem at the memorial. About halfway through “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a guard walked up and told them they couldn’t sing the anthem without a permit.

You see, the kids were engaging in “expressive activity” for which, naturally, living in a free country, you need a permit.

It’s right here in black and white. Dismissal from memorial property for:

s. Engaging in expressive activity that has the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd of on-lookers, except the 9/11 Memorial will allow visitors:

i. With a valid Memorial permit (information available here) to perform musical works on the Memorial Plaza for a 20 minute period on one designated day each month in the spring, summer and fall provided that there is no sound amplification and groups are smaller than 50 people (Note: a $35 non-refundable permit application fee will be charged)

So the kids could have performed the national anthem if they had been able to plan their trip around that one “designated day each month” and pay $35 for the privilege.

I realize the solemnity surrounding the memorial, but why couldn’t the administration have banned the singing of “inappropriate” songs, or even release a list of songs  that were permissible? If there was ever an appropriate place to sing the anthem, it’s at the 9/11 memorial.