Catholic school bans rainbows at anti-homophobia event
10 Jun 2011
For a symbol that wants to be about love and acceptance, pity the poor rainbow that has been banned from being used in an anti-homophobia event by school administrators. Does this mean that St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga (part of the greater Toronto Area) will be banning rainbows elsewhere to be consistent? Will they censor or rewrite the story of Noah and the Ark as well? When Noah finished his work, God said to Noah, "Look up in the sky." Noah looked up. The storm clouds were drifting away, the bright sun was shining against Noah's back. And against the dark grey sky, God made a brilliant rainbow appear. God said to Noah, "You see, I have set my rainbow in the sky. This will be the sign of the covenant I have made with you and all creatures, never again to destroy the earth by a flood. It will always remind us of the promise between you and me.”
So the moral of ths story is that when you see a rainbow and you think of Noah and the flood, remember that God loves you, and that no matter how bad the storm, there will always come a sunny new day. What will the Catholic Board use to replace the rainbow? A unicorn? A dove?
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board denies that they’ve banned rainbows, which are, among other things, a symbol of gay pride. Board spokesman Bruce Campbell told The Toronto Star that the board simply prefers that the students use a more generic “in-house design rather than the rainbow flag” – that is, one that isn’t about being gay.
It seems some Catholic schools in Ontario are discouraging the use of rainbows in marketing materials because they are too politically charged.
Student organizers for an anti-homophobia event at the school wanted to put up flags with rainbows — which over the years have been used as symbols for many things in addition to the current popular use as a sign for a gay-friendly space — but were told not to do so because of the political stance they portrayed. Gay-straight alliances (popular student groups in high schools across the province) have been disallowed at many Catholic schools, a sign of the current tension in Catholic education as they try to reconcile an increased push against homophobia with the Church's traditional views on homosexual relations.
The students at St. Joseph’s felt that the suggestion that they not use rainbows was something considerably more than a mere suggestion. “We brought signs and posters with rainbows, and we were told that we can’t put them up,” Leanne Iskander, the 16-year-old student who founded St. Joseph’s totally-not-a-gay-straight-alliance told the gay-and-lesbian newspaper Xtra. So instead the students baked rainbow colours into cupcakes.
The students sold all of the cupcakes and in so doing raised $200. The students wanted to donate the money to the LGBT Youth Line (a helpline that ofers support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids). But the school would not allow them to donate to LGBT Youth Line -instead the money had to go to Covenant House, a Catholic homeless shelter.
The use of the rainbow by students wasn't to push a political agenda — it was the hamhanded reaction of the school that made it political. Instead, the rainbow, by its simple distinction of beauty through multiplicity, is used to show that diversity is good; that we not only tolerate differences between people, but that we acknowledge and accept those differences as part of our global human experience.
For the school to disallow the use of the rainbow doesn't just go against the principles of acceptance, but is also contrary to the anti-homophobia message that the event was trying to convey. The rejection of a symbol that promotes unity because of a perceived political slant only encourages rejection and bias against groups that use that symbol as a marker for tolerance and diversity.
This is a glaring example of where the students are the thinking nurturing adults and the school officials are lost in a childish political wrangle. While Catholic schools have a religious affiliation, they are publicly-funded institutions and should not be engaging in censoring their students that are working to increase tolerance and diversity. Kudos to Iskander and her group!