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.
A 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.”
“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