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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Lansing has formed a diversity task force following controversy over the diocese’s approach to racial issues.

One of the policies being criticized is Lansing Catholic High School’s decision to punish four athletes who kneeled during the national anthem before games, the Lansing State Journal reported .

The athletes were following the actions of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and kneeling to protest racism. The four high school students were initially benched as a result of their actions.

More than 150 people protested the decision outside the diocese on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Bishop Earl Boyea met with parents during the protest, the diocese said. Asking students to stand and honor the flag isn’t racist, Boyea said.

“The men and women of our military have sacrificed so much. They deserve respect,” he said.

But Boyea said that after speaking with parents he realized that some people view the flag differently.

“The effects of racism can’t fully be appreciated unless you have experienced it,” he said.

Michael Lynn Jr. is the father of former Lansing Catholic student Michael Lynn III, who was one of the students who kneeled during the national anthem. Lynn III has since transferred to Sexton High School following the incident.

Lynn Jr. said that while the task force is a good start, he’s still waiting for a public apology from the diocese for the way his son was treated.

The task force aims to “listen to and meet the needs of racial and ethnic minorities,” the diocese said. It will present the bishop with recommendations in the fall.

The diocese has asked Catholic school administrators to be lenient with punishments for students who kneel during the national anthem, and has also asked all students to honor veterans by standing for the flag.


Information from: Lansing State Journal,