Drag Queen Ban Lifted and New Ban Imposed

August 16, 2012

Just a week ago, we reported that Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco had banned an annual fundraising event because it featured drag queens.

The San Francisco Examiner is now reporting that the ban on drag queens has been lifted:

“Although a gay-friendly Catholic church in The City’s Castro neighborhood is receiving heat for allegedly banning drag queens from all future events on its premises, church officials are saying that while they opposed the idea at first, they quickly changed their minds.”

The event is a fundraiser for the Castro Country Club, a neighborhood 12-step recovery organization, which has used the church’s hall for several years.

The news report suggests that the new pastor received some education about drag queens before announcing the new decision:

“. . . “[C]hurch Business Manager Michael Poma acknowledged that Pastor Brian Costello did tell members of the Castro Country Club that they could not hold their event if drag queens were scheduled to attend, Poma said he quickly reversed his decision.

“ ‘Father Brian wasn’t educated about the importance of drag queens in the gay community,’ Poma said. ‘Once it was explained to him, he said they were welcome to attend as long as their behavior was church-appropriate.’ ”

Most Holy Redeemer says that there was a different reason for the ban:

“Church officials now say the new policy is not a prohibition against drag queens, but rather an end to all one-time events that do not originate at the church. Poma said the ban applies to all outside events — gay or straight — including weddings, parties or fundraisers. The church is still planning to hold its own events, including 12-step programs, suppers for the homeless and AIDS support groups.

“ ‘This is not a ban on drag queens or an insult to the gay community whatsoever,’ Poma said. ‘In the church hall there have been issues with weddings and other groups, so we decided to put an end to them altogether. We are part of the community here and to think that we’re banning drag queens is obnoxious and ridiculous.’ ”

Additionally, there is some discrepancy about when the ban on outside groups was to be implemented, and the role that the Archdiocese of San Francisco did or did not play in the original decision:

“The ban on outside events was scheduled to go into effect at the end of September, but was pushed forward after the church consulted with the San Francisco Archdiocese. Although the Bay Area Reporter suggested Salvatore Cordileone, who is set to be the next archbishop, made the decision, the archdiocese insists it was completely up to the parish.”

The Bay Area Reporter article from last week reported:

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ [Fr.]Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ “

KQED Radio’s Laird Harrison interviewed George Wesolek, the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s spokesperson, about the chancery’s involvement in the decision, and he printed the following account on the radio station’s news blog:

“Returning my call, archdiocese spokesperson George Wesolek told me the church did not ban cross-dressing, it simply closed its facilities to groups not affiliated with the church. The change took place about two months ago and it had nothing to do with the appointment of the new archbishop, who doesn’t take office until Oct. 4, Wesolek said. He added that many parishes have similar policies for many reasons.

“Here’s our conversation, edited for brevity:

“George Wesolek: One example is that sometimes an outside group will come in and perhaps do something of a political nature. That can be disadvantageous to us because we are not supposed to be doing any kind of political activity with candidates. We can with issues, but not with candidates. So that is a somewhat usual policy for parishes.

“Laird Harrison: So there was no connection with the appointment of the new archbishop?

“George Wesolek: I know for a fact there is no connection at all. I would be very surprised if the new archbishop knew anything about this.

“Laird Harrison: Then why would Costello have attributed the change to the archdiocese?

“George Wesolek: He’s new there and I’m not quite sure what he had meant about that. He may have talked to someone at the archdiocese — in the legal team for example — and he was talking about a way of instituting a policy or was trying to understand the policy because it was in place before he came.

“Laird Harrison: Does the archdiocese have any sort of policy about drag queens?

“George Wesolek: We would pretty much leave that up to the parish. I would think that most parishes would not consider that appropriate.”

It is good to have a positive statement about the presence of drag queens coming from the pastor.  It is even better that the parish acknowledged his willingness to be educated about the issue.   Yet, what remains troubling is that there are still unanswered questions about how the decision was made and why is it only now that the parish is saying that this was a general ban against renting the space to outside groups.

There is no word if the originally banned show will now go on as planned.

We will keep you posted if this story develops or if  further explanations are given .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish

August 9, 2012

 

In what appears to be the new San Francisco archbishop’s first intervention at the city’s gay-friendly Most Holy Redeemer parish, drag queens will no longer be allowed to be part of a neighborhood organization’s fundraising dinner which has been held in the parish hall for several years.

B ay Area Reporter article reveals:

“For the past couple of years the Castro Country Club has held its event in the church’s social hall and had drag queens as entertainment.
 
“As a statement issued by the country club’s board of directors explained, the new no-drag-queen policy at the church is simply unacceptable.
 
” ‘The Castro Country Club had planned to hold our third annual Harvest Feast on October 20, 2012, at Most Holy Redeemer Church, where we have held this and other events in the past,’ the directors said in a statement.
 
“But that changed when the club was notified by the church last week that they would not be able to hold the dinner if any drag queens were part of the program, the board said.”
The Most Holy Redeemer pastor explained the reasons for the decision, noting that a new archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, is now at the head of the San Francisco Archdiocese:

Fr. Brian Costello

“Most Holy Redeemer’s new pastor, the Reverend Brian Costello, confirmed over telephone on Monday, August 6, that drag queen performers and emcees are no longer permitted to participate in events at the church.

“Costello said that during a telephone conversation with a Castro Country Club representative, when the topic of drag queens came up, he told the person, ‘That is not going to work under the present circumstances.’

” ‘I said work with me. You can still have the dinner. You can have a regular emcee, but not drag queens on church property,’ Costello said.

“It seems the directive is the result of several factors.

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ ‘”

Reactions from local and national organizations were critical of the decision to exclude drag performers:

” ‘It’s really ridiculous and discriminatory,’ said Zachary Davenport in a phone interview. ‘I mean it’s like, who’s next?’

“The drag queen ban is personal for Davenport, who, in drag as Laybelline has served as emcee for a variety of sobriety-related nonprofit events held at Most Holy Redeemer.

” ‘What constitutes drag?’ he said. ‘If we want to get funny, let’s talk about the priests. Hello.’ “

Dignity/San Francisco’s spokesperson was similarly angered:

” ‘This is an unfortunate development between Most Holy Redeemer and the Castro County Club,’ said Ernest L. Camisa, treasurer of the Dignity/SF chapter, speaking for the organization by e-mail and over the telephone.

” ‘It looks like the Archdiocese of San Francisco wants to protect its image by not condoning cross-dressers. By doing so they show that they care more for their image than they do for gay people trying to overcome alcohol addiction. Here the church looks like it values its own image more than it does human life. This is not Christian, but callous,’ Camisa said.”

Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement said:

“I think this is a very difficult and complex time for not only the pastor and the people of Holy Redeemer parish, but also for members of the drag community. All three groups are an example of ordinary people being called to do some extraordinary things for their neighbors. The pastor and parish of Most Holy Redeemer have to be very careful not to throw out the baby with the water in the name of homophobia. Jesus, not homophobia, should guide us in this matter.”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo stated:

“Drag is a historically-based, time-honored entertainment tradition that has existed, at least, since classical times.

“Canceling this program without any explanation or substantial reason is simply caving into fear of reprisals from higher authorities. If the [Most Holy Redeemer] community has supported this event for years, there has obviously been a relationship that has developed between the sponsoring organization and the parish, and it would be great if the two groups could work together to find some resolution. Reconciliation is what any and every parish should be about. If the parish does not offer a substantial intervening reason, we can only assume that other forces have had influence.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco acknowledged the difficulty of this decision:

“Reached by phone, George Wesolek, department head for communications and public policy for the archdiocese, said he was not in the policy conversation ‘loop.’ Nonetheless, Wesolek acknowledged, the situation is ‘difficult pastorally,’ particularly in ‘very divided and fractious church.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,053 other followers