Is the Olympics going to ban Christian crosses and Stars of David?

Unless the International Olympic Committee (IOC) plans to ban Christian crosses and Jewish Stars of David, they’re going to be in a world of hurt if they try to ban rainbows at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Why?  Because the rainbow is the symbol of the Metropolitan Community Church.  And if Olympics athletes want to show their support for the MCC church during the Sochi Olympics, the IOC is going to have one hell of a backlash if they try to ban expressions of support for a Christian faith.

mcc-rockies

Recently, an IOC delegate from Montreal, Dick Pound, expressed the view that rainbow pins should not be tolerated at Sochi.  Pound feels that rainbow pins are “screw[ing] around.”  You see, the Russians have been on a draconian anti-gay crackdown for a few years now, and a recently-passed anti-gay “propaganda” law pretty much bans anything pro-gay, be it a statement or a rainbow. So people like Dick Pound are trying to do all they can to appease the Russian bigots.

From the NYT:

Dick Pound, a longtime I.O.C. delegate from Montreal, said that although he found the Russian law “disgusting,” he believed that even rainbow pins should not be tolerated in Sochi.

Pound said he would give this advice to Olympic officials in various nations: “You say to your kids, ‘If you screw around with this we’ll send you home.’ ”

Such discipline of an American athlete could cause outrage in the United States, where attitudes toward same-sex marriage and discrimination based on sexual orientation have evolved significantly.

Pound said that athletes and officials should realize they will be in Sochi as guests.

“If there have been lots of warnings, there’s no excuse for it,” Pound said of athletes’ wearing rainbow pins. “Then it becomes a provocation.”

One wonders if Mr. Pound thinks Christian crosses are also “screw[ing] around.”

jewish-runners-olympics-1936

Here Glickman (left) and Stoller train aboard the ship Manhattan on their way to Berlin. July 1936. —USHMM #21725/Courtesy of Marty Glickman

And does Mr. Pound think that Jewish athletes at the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Berlin should have hidden their Stars of David?  Oh that’s right, we pulled Jewish athletes from the games in order to not embarrass Hitler, and that’s why Jesse Owens was able to run, because we canned the Jews.  How is Mr. Pound with canning Jews?

You see, in all of its effort to coddle the Russians, and eliminate any vestige of anything “gay” from the Winter Olympics, lest Russia’s official bigots somehow be offended by the notion of human rights and equality – after all, no one would want the Olympics to be about everyone being equal – the Olympics are now talking about possibly banning the rainbow.

The rainbow is a symbol of “gay.”  But it’s also, problematically for the International Olympic Committee, the symbol of a rather large, and everywhere, gay Christian church, the Metropolitan Community Church.  So is the IOC prepared to ban MCC rainbow pins and gear along with Christian crosses and Jewish Stars of David?

Here’s a sampling of MCC rainbow gear that I found just by googling around the Web.  Any of these could get you thrown in jail in  Russia, or thrown out of the Olympics by the IOC.

First, from the Naples News, in a story about the MCC church:

rainbowmcc2 rainbow-mcc

And here’s more from various MCC churches around the world – not the ubiquitous rainbow gear, any of which might soon be banned by the International Olympic Committee.

Rainbow bracelets and keychains from the MCC church in Holy Cross:

holy-cross-gift-shop

All sorts of rainbow accoutrements used during an MCC church service in the Philippines:

mcc-philippines

And even more rainbows:

illiana-mcc-2

Even rainbow crosses:

illiana-mcc-cross

And finally, here’s an MCC minister – his stole would get him thrown in jail in Russia:holy-cross-pastor

If Olympic athletes like Blake Skjellerup say that they’re wearing rainbows in an expression of their support for the Metropolitan Community Church, how can the Olympics stop them?


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • charles rider

    “I Saw Daddy Kissing Sana Clause,” is a title of a chapter in my book, “The Right Wing, the Good, the Bad, and the Crazy.” A chapter titled “The Radical Religious Right,” discusses the harassment a gay student at the University of Michigan. the student body president,faced last year. The individual responsible for the harassment was an Assistant Attorney General of the state of Michigan The “daddy’ article was written about two of my gay friends who helped me go through a divorce. The “religious right” chapter was written from a legal prospective since I am a attorney. Learn more about my book at http://www.radical rightdisasters.” You must see my video on U Tube titled “U.S. Citizens Hide Money in Swiss Banks. It was filmed in Switzerland. Charles Rider

  • UncleBucky

    It just occurred to me (probably way after anyone else), the rainbow IS a religious symbol: After the flood, God was reported as saying that he would never indiscriminately destroy humans, other animals and plant life again (I am riffing, but think, the flood drowned other than just hooman beans). As a sign of his pledge, God then wore a rainbow. ;o)

    Every person of the Book and anyone else can commemorate that first offical action of anti-discrimination by a Creator deity. ;o)

  • UncleBucky

    Actually, I think that wearing pink triangles on a collar or on a sleeve or lapel might be a better thing than wearing a rainbow flag. It’s an interesting idea. But no athlete should feel that she or he could evade this issue. Niemoller’s statement would give them the reason to wear pink or a rainbow. Seriously.

  • UncleBucky

    Betcha there’s a little hate in your brain, eh miss guest?

  • UncleBucky

    Every athlete worth his or her salt should wear rainbow something. Those who cave to this idiot fascist country (Russia) don’t deserve a lead (plomo) medal.

  • guest

    The MCC is not a Christian church. It’s a gathering of lgbt who have no brains and hate the bible.

  • fritzrth

    When did the rainbow flag become the symbol of MCC? From the beginning it’s always been the symbol of the GLBT community as a whole. Just because MCC uses it in some of their iconography doesn’t mean they have any claim to the rainbow as “their” symbol.

  • fritzrth

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing athletes and guests wearing pink triangles as a reminder that what’s going on in Russia right now isn’t much different from what was going on in Germany in 1938.

  • rmthunter

    The “guests” thing is so much horsepucky. Considering the effort — and money — Russia has put into hosting the Games, to call the athletes “guests” is just more smoke and mirrors.

    Oops — sorry: this was meant as a reply to Monoceros above.

  • rmthunter

    One thing that occurred to me, reading through the comments, is that Putin is not the only one pulling strings here — Kiril is right in the forefront of the anti-gay movement.

  • Bob Niemic

    Check out the rainbow Star of David, which is the logo for Congregation Bet Mishpachah, which is the GLBT synagogue in Washington, DC. http://www.betmish.org/

    So, Olympians who want to support GLBTs can wear either a rainbow flag, to show their support for MCC, or a rainbow Star of David, to show their support for Bet Mishpachah. OK, I.O.C., try to oppose that !! OK, Russia, try to oppose that !!

  • BloggerDave

    Excellent angle, John… Thinking people like you definitely make the LGBT community a formidable force…

  • chris10858

    I think it would be smart if we could get clarification from an IOC member and somehow goad them into making a public statement that items such as crosses or Stars of David are not allowed to be worn by the athletes either. That’d get the religious right in an instant uproar. You know, we need to get one of those “godless socialist Olympic members and their war on Christianity” kind of fight going. Maybe if we could get them to also disavow athletes from advocating for gun rights… we could then get the NRA involved.

    I’m not kidding at all here…. these two groups would swarm on the IOC like a pack of crazed african bees.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    No, the IOC lumps religious propaganda in with political and racial propaganda.

    I’m not defending their policies, just saying that I think John’s argument against banning rainbows is a little cutesy and isn’t a strong argument, for the reasons I’ve stated (I think it’s an inaccurate parallel, plus the IOS does have a policy banning religious symbols.) I think a better argument is simply that rainbows are a sign of support for basic human rights and are not political, religious or racial propaganda, so should be seen all over the next Winter Olympics.

  • Thom Allen

    Dick Pound is a tax lawyer, corporate suck-up and wanted to be the president of the IOC. He thinks that the Russian law is wrong but doesn’t want the “kids” to upset the Revenue $tream.

  • Thom Allen

    “No kind of demonstration of political, religious or racial propaganda . . .”
    So the IOC lumps religions in with “propaganda”? Putin should be incensed by that.

    You don’t have to say why you’re wearing a pin (medal, flower, rainbow). If the observer wants to think that a lamb represents Jesus, the RCC, or Shari Lewis, so be it. The wearer doesn’t have to say anything at all.

  • Thom Allen
  • https://twitter.com/leliorisen leliorisen

    Dick Pound? Seriously? You just can’t make this stuff up.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I know, I bit my tongue on that one :)

  • cole3244

    and she don’t take crap from no one.

  • AdmNaismith

    The rainbow is also a symbol of racial civil rights. I suppose the Russians don’t care about those so much either, symbols of racial civil rights haven’t been specifically banned. How will anyone know which rainbow you’re wearing?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Same here—was a deacon for a few years in SF

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    She ain’t Gaia for nothing!

  • cole3244

    i’ll take the rainbow over any religious symbol every time
    ps – the ioc had better hope it doesn’t rain during the games unless they think they can ban mother nature, (she’s gay) by the way.

  • Matt Rogers

    To resolve this question, I think people should request rainbow symbols from MCC that specifically reflect that church — huge symbols, as large as possible — and display them at the Olympics.

    That fact that the IOC also prohibits religious symbols does create a challenge. Maybe the IOC would agree to make an exception for religious symbols.

    By the way, I’ve also heard of MCC. In fact, I attended for almost 10 years.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I found myself wondering if Mr. Pound has a particular anti-gay chip on his shoulder, given the likely childhood treatment of his name.

    It seemed almost Freudian, the way he referred to Olympics athletes as ‘kids.’

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    What I found interesting was the dismissive patronizing of the Olympics athletes on the part of the unfortunately named Dick Pound, IOC delegate:

    Pound said he would give this advice to Olympic officials in various nations: “You say to your kids, ‘If you screw around with this we’ll send you home.’ ”

    “Kids”? Last I checked, while it’s true some of them are young, the vast majority aren’t wayward and misguided children, but grown adults, capable (and legally entitled) to make decisions for themselves.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Or articles about, well, anything.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Good points, and I don’t think we’re disagreeing. I’m specifically questioning the logic of the argument that banning rainbows = banning religious symbols, because the rainbow’s appearance at the Olympics will largely have a non-religious meaning. Your list of religious icons speaks to this — if a group wore lamb pins to protest trade restrictions on meat in Turkey, or doves as a message against war, would one argue that they should be considered religious statements because the RCC uses the same imagery?

    I think this is kind of moot because the IOC does ostensibly ban religious symbols in the same sentence as political ones (“No kind of demonstration of political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.“), so the discussion is just about selective enforcement across all banned things, rather than whether to treat the rainbow like a religious icon.

  • Thom Allen

    Not at all. The Catholic church, for example, uses a lot more symbols than just a cross or crucifix. They use the symbols for alpha and omega, fish symbol, crown of thorns, a heart, golden crown, scales, crossed keys, a lamb, a dove, medals, scapulars, halos over saints’ heads and dozens of others. It even uses a RAINBOW. The rainbow, in the RCC is a sign of the covenant between God and Noah. It is the sign that God gave, at the end of the storm, that He would never destroy the world by water again. So, technically, prohibiting a rainbow is discriminating against Catholocism as well as against the MCC.

    Also, from the photos, the MCC uses the rainbow for rainbow shaped pins, the bar on that member’s hat and in other forms, as they are free to do. If you want tl limit christian symbols to just a cross or crucifix, I think the RCC would be pretty pissed at you.

    Since the MCC is accepting of gays and lesbians, and some faiths arent, mayn LGBTQ athletes would have heard of it. I have. And why is it up to a secular organization, like the IOC or Russian Federation to decide WHICH religious symbols are inappropriate. After all, Putin just came out praising God in his NYT piece.

  • nicho

    Well, the Star of David has no actual religious significance either. It’s really a symbol of the Jewish community — as much of a community symbol as the rainbow flag is for the MCC. The Mogen David wasn’t handed down by god or anyone else. It was taken, supposedly, from David’s shield. So, if anything, it’s a symbol of war. One problem, of course, is that Jewish identity as a community and Jewish identity as a religion are pretty much conflated, making it difficultt to separate them. However, it would be unremarkable and appropriate for a non-practicing Jew to wear the star — just to indicate heritage and not religion.

  • wmforr

    Anyone named Dick Pound would do well not to have his name mentioned in articles about homosexuals.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I think the logic here is a bit of a stretch. If someone were really showing support for the MCC as a religious institution they’d wear a cross (or a rainbow cross) not just a rainbow. I think it’s tough to argue that the rainbow — the international symbol of LGBT — is tied to this group of churches in the same way that crosses or Stars of David are tied to Christianity or Judaism. How many of the athletes wearing rainbows do you think will have heard of the MCC?

  • SkippyFlipjack

    of course, the Star of David being on the Israeli flag, it sort of gets an exception when worn by athletes representing that country..

  • Monoceros Forth

    “Pound said that athletes and officials should realize they will be in Sochi as guests.”

    The guest-host relationship is supposed to work both ways, at least judging from what I got taught in school about xenia. If the host decides it’s a good idea to clap his guest in jail for wearing a pin with the wrong colors on it…you know, somehow I don’t think that’s the guest’s fault.

  • bill
  • Reasor

    I was doing so well at taking this story seriously, until I learned about Montreal IOC delegate Dick Pound. I am a huge child sometimes.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    How much you want to bet that Kiril’s Russian Orthodox Church has an official role in the opening or closing ceremonies?

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