Church accused of 'politicising' place of worship over Pride flag row

Church in row over plan to show Pride flag on altar over claims it politicises place of worship and will lead to ‘moral anarchy’

  • The landmark legal case involves St Nicholas Church in Leicester
  • The reverend claims the flag is to let visitors know they are ‘welcome and safe’ 
  • Opponents have accused the church of ‘woke’ virtue signalling 

A historic church’s controversial plan to display a gay Pride flag on its altar is to be ruled on in a landmark legal case after protesters complained that it was ‘politicising’ a place of worship.

St Nicholas Church in Leicester had hung the colourful flags at weekend services but then last year switched them for a much larger permanent version.

Church reverend Canon Karen Rooms claims the huge fabric Progress Pride Flag is merely a way of letting visitors know they are ‘welcome and safe’.

But opponents, including parishioners and General Synod members have accused the church, parts of which date from around 900AD, of ‘woke’ virtue signalling. 

St Nicholas Church in Leicester (above) is being accused of allowing ‘moral anarchy’

A test case will now be heard by the Church of England’s consistory court, with campaigners warning it will ‘open the floodgates’ to ideological imagery in other churches if given the go-ahead. 

Sam Margrave, of the Synod, the CofE’s governing council, told The Sunday Telegraph that the ‘infiltration’ was allowing ‘moral anarchy’.

Canon Rooms wrote in her submission for the faculty that the flag ‘is a simple statement of welcome and safety’. 

The Diocese of Leicester said: ‘All new altar frontals require permission… The application… is with the Diocesan Chancellor’s office and will be decided in due course.’

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: ‘Placing a Pride flag on the altar, which symbolises a political sexual ideology completely at odds with the gospel, must be challenged.’

Protesters in London last year speaking out against Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights before the World Cup

The dispute comes at a time when the CofE is locked in a damaging internal debate over gender, sexuality and marriage.

The flashpoint at St Nicholas, which is among the ten oldest churches in Britain, happened in September when switched the Pride flags were replaced by the Progress Pride Flag, a gift from a worshipper at a nearby church.

The banner, based on the iconic rainbow flag from 1978, was developed in 2018 by non-binary American artist Daniel Quasar to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and call for a more inclusive society.

St Nicholas churchwarden and transgender poet Jay Hulme said at the time: ‘People were actually weeping in the pews when they saw it.’

But the church had to take down the altar frontal a month later as it hadn’t applied for planning permission, known as a faculty, and the case was referred to the church court as the protests grew.

It will be ruled upon by the diocese chancellor Lyndsey de Mestre, a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, London, or a deputy in the coming months.

It is not known yet whether the case will be heard in public or based on written submissions.

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