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Navy Publishes Guidance Warning Sailors Not to Protest National Anthem

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In the wake of two sailors going public with their decision to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by refusing to stand when the Star Spangled Banner is played, Navy Reserve Forces Command today published guidance warning troops that they can be punished or prosecuted for such protests.

A message directed at active-duty sailors and reserve personnel on active duty cites Navy Regulation 1205, which mandates that personnel in uniform must stand at attention and face the flag when the national anthem is played. It also notes that a Navy administrative message published in 2009 requires Navy active-duty personnel in civilian clothes to face the flag, stand at attention, and place their right hand over their heart.

"Additionally, Sailors receive training on the appropriate usage of social media, and must not use it to discredit the Naval Service, and should be reminded it could potentially be used as evidence against them," the guidance continues, a message apparently directed at the two sailors who published posts on Facebook about their protests.

Failure to comply with these regulations, the message said, is punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and constitutes commission of a serious offense -- grounds for administrative separation from the service.

"While military personnel are not excluded from the protections granted by the First Amendment, the US Supreme Court has stated that the different character of our community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections," the guidance states.

The actions taken regarding the two sailors who engaged in separate protests have not been publicly announced.

In late August, a sailor attached to the Naval Air Technical Training Center at Pensacola, Florida, posted a video to Facebook of herself sitting down during the base's morning "colors" ceremony, which quickly received viral attention on the social media platform.

Naval Education and Training Command officials confirmed the sailor, who has not been publicly named, had been subject to administrative action, but had been retained for service in the Navy.

And Sept. 21, Petty Officer 2nd Class Janaye Ervin, an intelligence specialist based in Hawaii, wrote in a public Facebook post that she was being punished by the Navy for remaining seated for the anthem two days earlier. A spokesman for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam said only that actions regarding Ervin are under review.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

Related video:

Sailor Protests by Sitting Down for National Anthem

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