The Australian Catholic University has ordered Pride flags to be removed from libraries across its campuses.
The LGBTQ pride flags were put up in February during orientation week, as in new student orientation week rather than sexual orientation week.
But the university has instructed staff that the flags were not “appropriate”.
An email sent to staff read: “It is not considered to be appropriate at ACU. If you have any such material on display in your library could you please remove it from the public area.”
The move has sparked a backlash from gay staff and students who insist that the Catholic institution should be promoting and celebrating gay pride despite the fact Catholic teaching on sexuality and gender is at odds with the gay pride movement.
A letter from the LGBTIQ+ societies of ACU read:
“When you and your representatives should have been promoting messages of celebration, you have decided to ban pride imagery and instead send a message that LGBTIQ+ people are not welcome at your university.
“The directive sent to staff under your watch is, therefore, a direct affront to ACU’s mission to act in truth and love in the pursuit of knowledge, the dignity of the human person, and the common good.”
ACU vice-president Anthony Casamento and chief operating officer Stephen Weller responded to the letter insisting that the university was based in the faith and traditions of the Catholic Church.
“This means that these spaces do not focus on any one particular group or society,” they wrote.
“We respect the right of students to form clubs and societies and, importantly, we strive to do all we can to offer support and care to every student.
“Universities are places in which any voice making a reasonable case will be heard and is not silenced, so long of course as that voice shows equal respect to all other positions, including the position reflected in the University’s Mission.”
An ACU spokeswoman blamed the banning of pride flags on the universities official flag flying policy.
“The university has a policy for the flying of flags, which recognises the national, state, Aboriginal, Torres Strait, ACU and Vatican flags for display in public space on ACU campuses,” she said.
“Staff are free to display other flags at their offices or workstations if that is their personal decision. There is no directive or policy that denies displaying flags or other symbols, rainbow or otherwise, in personal spaces across the university.”
ACU Ally Network co-convener Noah Riseman, who is also a professor of history at the university’s Melbourne campus, said the pride flag was needed to help gay staff and students feel welcome.
“We want LGBTIQA+ students and staff to feel safe and welcome at ACU. Visibility is part of creating that safe environment,” he said.