03/23/2016 01:27 EDT | Updated 03/24/2017 05:12 EDT

Newfoundland Legislature Flag Taken Down After Critics Link It To Anti-Gay Teachings

Parliament building in Newfoundland, Canada
Getty Images
Parliament building in Newfoundland, Canada
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Christian flag that critics say is a symbol of anti-gay religious beliefs is no longer flying at the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature.

A statement from the provincial Liberal government says the flag featuring a red cross was removed from a courtesy pole as other flags were lowered to half-mast.

It says the gesture is to honour Belgium in the wake of Tuesday's bombings at the Brussels airport and subway that killed at least 34 people. 

The province says when flags are lowered, any flags being flown on provincial buildings as a courtesy are removed.

Premier Dwight Ball has deflected criticism that the flag, for many people, is linked to anti-gay religious teachings.

He says various municipalities raised the red cross to mark holy Easter week and that his government respects all groups -- regardless of religious or sexual identities.

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