Catholic School Bans Rainbows At Pro-LGBT Event

A Catholic high school in Mississauga, Canada, took a strange tack in curtailing the activities of its “unofficial” gay-straight alliance: it banned rainbows from a student-run anti-homophobia event.  The students got around the ban by baking cupcakes and dyeing them different colors to form a rainbow.  They then sold the cupcakes and raised more than $200 for charity.  But the school then informed them that they could not donate the money to any LGBT-related organization.  Instead, they were told to donate to a Catholic homeless shelter.

The students, understandably, are outraged.  And the whole episode is part of a peculiar effort for Catholic schools to navigate students’ desire to support gay rights, despite the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality.  Students were not allowed to form gay-straight alliances, but they were permitted to form groups to combat homophobia or bullying.  And they were allowed to have a booth against homophobia during the school’s social justice week, but not to display a rainbow flag.  This, school officials said, would “lead to activism.”  The students were also not permitted to display materials about trans health, sexual orientation and gender identity, or AIDS.

“We proposed a whole bunch of resources and only about four got approved, and the ones that were approved were censored,” said Leanne Iskander, the founder of the unofficial GSA.  “They wouldn’t let us have this one booklet because it had one or two sentences on safe sex.”

“The Catholic board gave the students a carrot to try to silence them when they announced the anti-bullying clubs. But it’s not enough and it’s not meeting the needs of youth,” explained one Canadian gay rights activist who has advised the students. “The students recognize that and they are fighting for what they want.”

The students are planning to march in a Pride Parade, despite the fact that they are not allowed to mention the school’s name.  During the parade, they will give out buttons encouraging support for gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools.

“Marching in Pride is important to us because it will allow us to advocate for GSAs in Catholic Schools to a large audience,” explained Iskander. “Handing out buttons will be an excellent way to spread the message that GSAs are needed in Catholic schools.”

The spokesman for the school’s board, Bruce Campbell, had some unconvincing excuses for the board’s decisions.  He said that the rainbow was banned, not because the board has anything against rainbows, but because an “in-house logo” had already been designed.  For a later event, he said that putting up a rainbow flag “certainly wouldn’t be outside the realm that is something acceptable to ask.”  Although who knows what kind of event outside his control – like the “logo” — would stand in the way when that day rolled around.

It’s inspiring to see students like Iskander fighting for the right to advocate for social justice in their schools, even when they’re up against an institution as powerful and complex as the Catholic Church.  But, as Anna North points out on Jezebel, all of these actions are making Iskaner’s school look pretty desperate.  After all, as she writes, “When you have to start banning rainbows to keep kids from speaking up for what they believe in, it might be time to just listen.”


Photo from Benson Kua's Flickr photostream.


Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

Is anyone surprised????

Carolyn B.
Carolyn R6 years ago

"Deborah L is right: the rainbow is a symbol of alliance between God and humankind."

Wow. I'm amazed people still believe this kind of thing. The rainbow is obviously a natural phenomenon, with a natural cause: the diffraction of light caused by droplets of water in the air. Your fairy-tale explanation about how a pretend sky monster promising to try to stop trying to murder all of humanity & stop slaughtering all life on earth because it was mad about people having sex (or whatever arcane and bizarre thing it was supposedly mad about) - this might be relevant to you, but it doesn't mean your cult owns the rainbow. Try to spin it however you like, the obvious REAL explanation for the Catholics being upset about the rainbow flag is the discomfort they are feeling trying to hold onto their important traditions of hate and oppression of the common man for the benefit of the elite, and to somehow make that anti-humanist scheme work in a modern world where education and opportunity makes their shtick less and less acceptable to more and more people. Those who have enough freedom and security to think and speak are heading for the door out of the church, it's only in places where people are drowning in misery and desperation that people will accept religion - the more free, educated, and secure people are, the more secular they become. Catholics want to be seen as moral, but also to be able to hold onto the homophobia that is such a big part of their scheme of control. The

Allan Yorkowitz
.6 years ago

Nothing about this is surprising. As I interpret the article, I think the students didn't think they could get away with it either, or they would have asked for permission first - knowing they would be turned down.

Heather G.
Heather G6 years ago

Tom, would you want someone who is anti-Heterosexual to "quote" your views on what it's like to be straight?? And then use those same "quoted" views to examine the promotion of the straight life-style?? I DOUBT IT. I also doubt you know what any REAL gay person is asking.

Do you also believe that rasicm doesn't cause problems for people who aren't white? Or that sexism doesn't cause problems for people who aren't male?

Nicole M.
Monika M6 years ago

They all really do think there are no (closeted) LGBTQ kids in their schools, don't they?

Well, there ARE. I was one.

Ares V.
Ares V.6 years ago of my comment was cut off.

You don't have to agree with who I love, but don't tell me I'm wrong or judge me. Leave that up to GOD. Unless you're assuming that role and I forgot to read the memo.
P.S. I grew up in a Catholic home and then went to Nazarene and other Christians churches. I pretty much tolerate any religion when they care to extend that courtesy to me.

Ares V.
Ares V.6 years ago

There are many, many, many other gay people that R not like that. So don't lump all gays into that lifestyle or crowd. There are just as much or more promiscuity in the hetro society or did you overlook Mardi Gras or Spring Break.
I am a gay man and don't go around drinking and having sex with every guy I meet. I grew up in a religious family and still have my standards and morals intact, but I didn't appreciate that they felt the need to remind me I was evil or depraved.
Let me make it clear, I didn't have a choice about being gay, but you have a choice about being Catholic. As far as being tolerant, I was taught, not by religion, but by my parents, to respect everyone whether I agreed with their views or not, which means I don't get to go around telling them they're evil or promiscuous or WRONG. It think that's common human courtesy, but I guess it’s not that common anymore. You're so called tolerance for Catholicism, really? So you must think the crusades were a wise thing for the Catholic religion to do; the slaughter of many Jews and others that didn't conform to their teachings. I bet that made God proud. What about Jesus. I don't remember Jesus going around slaughtering innocent people. . I don't recall Jesus telling the woman/prostitutes (Mary Magdalene) that hung around him to go away or the leapers. Why? Because he was teaching love and acceptance, not hate and fear. Something you need to remember. You don't have to agree with who I love, but don't tell me

Bibi Sarangabataanan

The school was sponsoring a social justice week not a "homophobic event"

Why would a homosexual promote a homophobic event? it does not even make sense. Gays would not promote a pychological disorder (phobia) that they purport someone else has.

Do you know what a phobia is? Probably not.

Dear Doctor,

My neighbor says things which I think are bigoted and stupid. He scratches his nuts and considers farting a sport. High weeds grow over his rusty trucks and his pitbull sits unchained next to a plastic swimming pool which is slimy with mold. I am mostly ambivalent but at times don't like things about my neighbor. Is this because I have a psychological disorder known as neighborphobia?

The neighbor held a yard sale and sold cupcakes saying that he is promoting a neighborphobic event. Since I am the one who presumably has the "phobic event" each time I am confronted by my neighbors yard, why is he promoting my psychological event?

I think he is confused, so today I am going to hold a neighborphobic event of my own and see if the rest of my neighbors are as phobic as I am about the mess next door and maybe we can get the guy to clean up his act.

Respectfully, B

On the other hand maybe there's no phobia involved at all, no deep psychological aversion to neighbors, but instead just a simple garden variety disagreement over property maintenance.

Hayley Zacheis
Hayley Zacheis6 years ago

If you're going to ban rainbows from an anti-homophobic event, and the rainbow is now a worldwide symbol of LGBTs, then why even bother having the event?

Myriam G.
Myriam G6 years ago

Deborah L is right: the rainbow is a symbol of alliance between God and humankind.
So, the school is banning the symbol of alliance between God and humankind... but I'm sure that there are crosses in this school, and a cross is an instrument of torture. Makes me think...