Waving a Rainbow Flag is Not a Neutral Act


Some Roman emperors didn’t like Christians.

To flush them out, Roman authorities would often force people suspected of being Christian to do a public act that no Christian could in good conscience perform, such as offering incense on the altar of a pagan god or before an image of the emperor himself. Because, in either case, the Christian would be publicly treating that god or emperor as divine (something a Christian – who accepted the One, True God of the Gospel – simply could not do). If they refused to do the act, his or her identity as a Christian would be exposed and the consequences would follow.

Often, these consequences were torture and death…

… and thus the early martyrs were born.

Those who offered incense to the gods had apostatized – they had publicly denied their faith.

This type of test has been forced upon Christians for centuries.

Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence (2016) evocatively tells the story of the persecution of Catholics in Japan in the 1600’s, where Christians were forced to stomp on a holy icon of Jesus or the Virgin Mary – or to spit on a crucifix (*warning: graphic imagery – blood and execution*):

(The priest in the scene above is a Jesuit missionary.)

Today, something similar, I suggest, is being tried with the “rainbow flag” of the LGBT movement. Waving the flag, identifying with it, and participating in the public parades staged by gay activists all convey an agreement with an agenda that, at its heart, contradicts and denies, among other things, the teachings of Christ and His Church about the nature and destiny of the human person.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, the rainbow flag is not a neutral flag — it conveys that the flag and the agenda behind it is more important to one than the Christian faith and more important than the teachings of Christ handed down by his apostles, priests, bishops, doctors, martyrs, and popes.

Catholics who refuse to wave the rainbow flag, literally or figuratively, especially if they work in industries like entertainment, risk being mocked, passed over, or their having character denigrated.

So it’s sad when prominent Catholic figures such as Jim Gaffigan wave the rainbow flag of the LGBT agenda and, in much the same way that some Christians throughout history have publicly rejected certain truths of the Faith, bow to the spirit of the age:

Some Christians are, I grant, unaware of the full implications of what they are doing, but whether they mean to do something contrary to the faith or not, it is still a public act that implies endorsement of several anti-Christian positions.

LGBT activists get this. That’s why it’s not uncommon to find offensive, even blasphemous, activities at gay pride parades, as a 15 second Twitter search will show:

(Note the noose-tie around Jesus. This photo was taken at last weekend’s Dublin pride parade.)

In 16th century Japan, some Christians chose to spit on a crucifix while still, they felt, loving Jesus and hating the fact that they felt compelled to disparage his image. Today, many Christians tell themselves that waving the rainbow flag is simply a sign of personal support for people they know and love. But waving that flag is not a neutral act.

And it’s time we stop kidding ourselves that it is.





The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author


Thomas Peters, 33, grew up in Southern California and attended college in Michigan. He has two graduate degrees in theology. He began his award-winning American Papist blog in 2006, which went on to become one of the most popular Catholic blogs in America. He was one of a handful of Americans invited to the Vatican’s first-ever Bloggers’ Meeting in Rome. Peters has appeared in dozens of TV, radio and online media outlets over the years discussing the intersection of Catholicism and political activism, debating topics related to life, family and religious freedom, in addition to writing and speaking about the future of social media and online organizing. From 2010-2016 he served as an advisor to CatholicVote.org. He and his wife Natalie live in Washington DC. You can follow him on Twitter @AmericanPapist.


  1. Ryan Schroeder on

    Sorry, but this doesn’t make sense.
    “Some Christians are, I grant, unaware of the full implications of what they are doing, but whether they mean to do something contrary to the faith or not, it is still a public act that implies endorsement of several anti-Christian positions.”
    The Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Unitarian Churches in the U.S. all have written in their canon law, constitution and bylaws, respectively, the validity of gay marriage. Are they not Christians? How, exactly, are Christians anti-Christian?
    Speaking of anti-Christian positions, where is this website’s support for extending the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to cover sexual orientation? Why did this site support HB 2 in North Carolina, which legalized employment discrimination against LGBT persons statewide? Why does this site believe that gay persons can be denied any public service, simply for existing (see: HB2, Mississippi religious freedom bill, etc.).

    • “The Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Unitarian Churches in the U.S. all have written in their canon law, constitution and bylaws, respectively, the validity of gay marriage. Are they not Christians? How, exactly, are Christians anti-Christian? How, exactly, are Christians anti-Christian?”

      Do you know *anything* about Catholicism (you’re aware you’re on site called CatholicVote, right?), or do you really not understand how Catholics might not view the “bylaws” of Protestant denominations as representative of authentic Christian teaching? Honest question. If the answer is “no,” however, I’d suggest some foundational research before coming back to this issue.

      Also curious to know whether you would accept that anyone speaking in the name of Islam must de facto be taken as a representative of Islam? How exactly, are the Muslims of ISIS anti-Muslim?

      • Ryan Schroeder on

        Well, you’re putting words in my mouth. Did I write that anyone’s beliefs are authentic Christian teaching? No. You can view others’ beliefs however you like.
        Your ISIS comparison doesn’t make sense. Is ISIS an official religion? An official representative body of a religion? No.
        To compare ISIS to the leadership of the Episcopalian, Presbyterian or Unitarian Churches doesn’t make sense.

        • Never saw an answer to either of Jose’s questions, so I’ll assume that they’re both “no.” No, you didn’t label anything as “authentic Christian teaching”; but your strong implication was that the Catholic Church has no right to define any position as “anti-Christian” if other ecclesial communities which, at their root, separated from the Catholic Church in either schism or heresy, endorse it. And to use your words, Ryan, that “doesn’t make sense.”

          If I was mistaken about your non-responses to Jose’s questions, then we can continue the conversation. Otherwise, it would be pretty pointless.

      • BRAVO, Jose!!! Perfectly stated!! Viva Christo Rey! Too bad I just bought tickets to see Jim Gaffigan. Thought he was a faithful Catholic celebrity. I guess it looks like he’s succumbed to the Liberalness of the other Hollywood fools.

    • Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Unitarians are at least heretics, which is how they can write anti-Christian provisions into their rebellious canons. (I’m not sure that Unitarians are actually Christians.) So there’s your answer: when you’re a heretic, you can say whatever you want.

      • Ryan Schroeder on

        OK, as we celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom, I’ll remember that non-Catholics who claim to be Christians are heretics. Freedom of religion, right?

        • If I might offer a slight correction to BJD’s comment: Those born and raised in a community which separated from the Catholic Church through heresy are not PERSONALLY guilty of this heresy–but the heresy itself remains. We refer to them as “separated brethren”–and both of those words are important.

    • Just because the Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Unitarians accept and support gay marriage doesn’t make it acceptable to all Christians. This is a Catholic site, and as such is promoting the precepts of the Church, whether you or the Episcopalians, etc. approve. Guess the Reformation was based on a much more profound divide than I thought.

      • Anonymous Commenter on

        You can’t really say which websites are “Catholic” sites and which ones are not “Catholic,” can you? I mean, who gets to decide that? We all have different views on whether ND, Georgetown, Holy Cross, Steubenville, SJU, U of Dallas, etc., are Catholic enough for us. Why are websites different? Who decides? You?

  2. It was a joke. The kids are wearing bathing suits in the picture. They were on their way home from the sprinkler park and someone handed the kids flags. He thought it was funny to see the kids with the flags and took a picture saying his kids were gay.

    • mm
      Thomas Peters on

      Where are you getting this? Jim and his wife both posted about it and their daughter is wearing a rainbow flag.

      • This was the excuse made on Jeannie Gaffigan’s twitter feed, but their daughter’s Instagram yesterday told an entirely different story. The oldest daughter purchased the flags and was very much enjoying the parade. Even saying on video that the parade participants were her “idols” and thought it was cute that 2 men were kissing in front of her. It was a very sad display and I am very disappointed in the Gaffigan’s.

  3. So if I have this straight: it’s wrong that Catholics could lose working opportunities in Hollywood because they don’t support gay marriage? Then why, Thomas, have you called for employment discrimination law to not be extended to gay people?
    Your hatred for gay people has no place at an actual Catholic website.

    • mm
      Thomas Peters on

      Alaska’s Prop 5 was an activist law meant to coerce employers and businesses into violating their conscience. And that’s why it failed at the ballot box by a 16pt margin. But thanks for trolling.

      • Might as well double down on your lies.  The exact text of Proposition 5 exactly contradicts you.

        “The public policy of the municipality [Anchorage] is declared to be equal opportunity for all persons.  The assembly finds that invidious discrimination in the sale or rental of real property, financing practices, employment practices, public accomodations, educational institutions, and practices of the municipality, based upon race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age [OR] physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity adversely affects the welfare of the community.  Accordingly such discrimination is prohibited.

        It is the express intent of this chapter to guarantee legal protections consistent with federal and state constitutional freedoms and laws, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the free exercise of religion.  Nothing in this Title shall be construed as permitting any unlawful act.”

        So tell me, Thomas:  why do you think gay people should not be involved in any of these acts and practices?

        As a person with a gay person in my family, you disgust me.


        • mm
          Thomas Peters on

          Well, so much for loving everyone I guess! Sorry to hear I disgust you. I love you and am sorry to see you giving in to such terrible feelings. I hope you find peace.

          • Actually, it’s tough to find peace when others are working to legalize discrimination against one’s family members.

  4. As a Catholic/Christian of The Word and One True God we cannot and must not show our support and condone sinful behavior in any way. Imagine a Christian waving a flag in support of prostitution or pornography. After all we know and love people who may be living that life or at least viewing it’s content. That wouldn’t be OK with christans and neither should they be OK with waving a rainbow in support of homosexual life choices. We must love the person yes we are commanded to do that. But, true love, the love that comes from God does not rejoice in their sin and support a continuation in that sin. True love only desires what is holy and good for people, desires heaven for souls.

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)

    • Kenton Wells on

      I agree with Joanne. We have to live life in the truth of Jesus Christ. As the gospel today says, we need to enter through the narrow gate. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.

  5. Excellent article. A pinch of incense to the emperor and/or pagan “gods” may have seemed like a minor act. Of course it wasn’t. Neither are the numerous ways in which Christians are tempted and coerced to kneel before the “gods” of today including those of a political or ideological origin. The wheat is being separated from the chaff. Being a Christian has never been cost free. Many of us are about the learn the high price of discipleship.

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  7. I was raised Catholic and somehow came away with the idea that we are supposed to love and accept everyone however God made them, and that we are to let God judge them, not us. Those of you that are so hateful of a group of people that just want to love without judgement, I hope you don’t find out upon entrance to heaven that this was your one test and you failed.

    • mm
      Thomas Peters on

      Hi Deb, much of what you say is true, but hopefully you have also learned that we are called to love the person but call them on to live a holy life, free of sins that harm and endanger their soul. God came not to judge us, but to save us from our sins. And to be saved, we have to acknowledge our sinfulness. We ignore our sin at our own peril. I hope you don’t find out upon entrance to heaven (where God will judge us!) that you ignored your sinfulness and failed the one test we know God gives us: seeking repentance for our sins and asking for His grace. If you fail this one test, Jesus says you will go to hell. He says this many, many times actually.

      • Ryan Schroeder on

        So you consider firing someone for being gay to be not a sinful act?
        I’m assuming, then, that you also believe that people who have sex outside of marriage, those who use contraception, those who employ IVF, the divorced, etc. can also be fired for these reasons?
        It’s clear that this is all about discriminating against gay people, though. The Anchorage proposition, as the other poster pointed out, already protected people based on marital status. Why were you not protesting this as well, if truly this is all about sinful behavior? I can find no record of you doing so.

    • Deb, Have you heard about fraternal correction or the spiritual /corporal works of mercy? Jesus did not accept the sexual lifestyle of the woman caught in adultery; he instructed her to go and sin no more. He did that out of love, not hate.

      Nor are we to forget to remove the log from our eye and repent our own sinful behavior.

      • Ryan Schroeder on

        I appreciate your perspective, but what about the other part of the story? In which Jesus implicitly chides those who seek to penalize the woman for the mistakes she has made? So I’ll ask again, why does the author believe that society should legalize discrimination against gay people? Just because they are sinful? What about sinful heterosexuals? Why is the author OK with marital status being a protected class, aka divorcees?

        • Perhaps you should read the book “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay” by Daniel Mattson.

          If you are asking me to answer for the author, I cannot. I only answer for myself.

        • Those who sought to penalize the woman were going to stone her to death. That would give her no opportunity to change her life and be redeemed. Jesus did not say the law under which she was condemned was wrong.

  8. Has anyone else noticed that the Gay Pride symbol is not a 7 colored rainbow, but a only a 6 colored rainbow. In science class we learned ROYGBIV as the acronym for the colors in the light spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. That’s seven. In every gay pride rainbow, it’s incomplete. Only 6 colors. I find that very telling. It’s as if without their knowledge they are saying we don’t need the fullness of the covenant with God.

  9. Well done, Thomas. It is so disheartening to see so many Catholics being gladly led into submission to this madness. Thank you for presenting the truth so clearly. God bless you!

  10. It is always amusing watching conservative Christians play the victim card and live out fantasies of martyrdom. After all, it’s a slippery slope from choosing not to wave a rainbow flag to being publicly tortured and killed, right? I’m sure LGBT people can’t possibly imagine what that might be like.

    And what arrogance to claim special knowledge of the true meaning of symbols and actions for a community to which you don’t belong. I can tell that you have no interest in hearing directly from LGBT Catholics about what gay pride really means to them, and how they reconcile that with their faith. It’s much easier to distort their beliefs and smear them on the internet.

    It is pieces like this that expose the farce that is conservatives’ new talking point about only wanting equal rights and fair treatment to live out their values. They stole that argument from the very victims they slime. And here’s the thing: despite this self-serving propaganda, conservatives like you would garner much more respect if you expressed one ounce of concern about on-going persecution of the LGBT community. But you don’t.

    You might feel at home in your CV “safe space,” but the world is passing you by. Why do you think all the anti-LGBT zealots are running overseas to places like Russia and Uganda? It’s not because they’re winning here.

    Unfortunately, TP, you’re not important enough to be martyred. To the extent that you’re remembered, it will be for further marginalizing people already victimized by society. There’s still time to change, but it might require more humility than you’ve got. I’ll pray for you though.

    • What is it about gay pride that means desecrating religious statues and art aka putting a noose over a crucifix? How do LGBT Catholics reconcile someone disrespecting Christian symbols?

      I am pretty sure each country has its homegrown anti-LGBT zealots.

  11. What is the best way for faithful Catholics to disassociate ourselves from our gay friends and relatives?

    Also, should we do the same for those who have been divorced and remarried (outside the Church) as well?

    • Anonymous Commenter on

      Since you asked, my advice is for you to leave the church. Disassociation from gays and remarried divorcees is not what our church teaches. Perhaps the Baptists would be a better fit. Not sure.

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