Drag Queen Ban Lifted and New Ban Imposed

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

7 replies
  1. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
    Fran Rossi Szpylczyn says:

    I’m thinking that Jesus would have been talking to, and eating with, drag queens along with pretty much everyone else. How else are we transformed, if we are not all at Christ’s table?

    Not to mention that everytime we push someone away from that table, allegedly in Jesus’ name, we are not living eucharistically, are we? It’s about eating together (I have this thought on my heart and mind due to another post, about another church flap…) and not eating alone. *sigh*

    God have mercy.

  2. Lawrence
    Lawrence says:

    I can understand the need to restrict use of church facilities to church-sponsored events and activities. But since the church has its own 12-step and other programs, the church could conceivably PARTNER with the Castro Country Club for limited engagements such as this. Good PR for the church. If the female impersonators behave appropriately, they would project a positive image on the community and be as acceptable as Geraldine or Milton Berle.

  3. Rita
    Rita says:

    This new ‘reason’ sounds false…if they truly were going to implement this new ‘ban on wedding parties’ etc. before the drag queen fiasco, I’d be sure to have the paperwork ‘carbon dated’ to see when it was actually written, no matter what the date says on the page! Our parish receives a great deal of income from holding wedding receptions, etc. Interesting that a Catholic parish, which is usually in need of money desperately, would suddenly cut off such a source of funding.


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  1. […] shows have previously caused controversies at Catholic schools and parishes, including in San Francisco and in New York. Thankfully, the University has defended the student-led drag show to promote […]

  2. […] at Most Holy Redeemer parish in San Francisco reverses his earlier decision to ban drag queens from parish […]

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