Screengrab from video posted to Twitter by @LandonStarbuck on August 20, 2022, depicting a drag performance at Tennessee Tech University.
Washington, DC Newsroom, September 10, 2022, 11:22 a.m. (CNA).
The University of Tennessee Tech is examining the circumstances surrounding the recent on-campus performance of a drag performer dressed as a Franciscan monk.
A video of the performance posted on social media drew heavy criticism for mocking the Catholic faith.
Phil Oldham, the school’s president, said in a statement on Thursday evening: “All students, faculty and staff deserve care and attention, as well as representation and respect.” The focus of the investigation is the inappropriate involvement of minors and a review of our policies and procedures.
The video shows the drag performer dancing suggestively to Irish singer-songwriter Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” and making the sign of the cross before shedding a brown cape to display a similar outfit to a corset underneath.
The drag concert at Tennessee Tech University featured young children offering money to a drag queen performing a dance clearly intended to ridicule Christians. Every parent who pays to send their children to Tennessee Tech should know that it is allowed on campus. pic.twitter.com/Q4I9uR2tcT
— Landon Starbuck (@LandonStarbuck) September 7, 2022
The performance took place at the Backdoor Playhouse campus on August 20 as part of an event called “DRAG at the Backdoor” sponsored by the Upper Cumberland Pride group.
The performance was deemed “indefensible” by Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, a nonprofit Catholic civil rights organization. In a letter to Oldham, he said the performer should be disinvited from the September 24 drag show at the theatre.
Through the integration of classes, performances, seminars and other activities, Backstage Playhouse promotes creativity, critical thinking, excellence and professionalism, according to its organizing statement. Donohue referenced a description of the band on the university’s website in a letter to Oldham. “However, why would he organize an anti-Catholic event?”
Oldham agreed the performance was offensive.
Oldham said in a statement, “I am horrified and appalled by the activities depicted in a video circulating on social media from a recent event at Tennessee Tech.”
“I do not believe that the activities in the video reflect the principles of Tech, and I do not condone explicit behavior in the presence of minors. I am also angered by the satire that disparages any religious group,” he concluded. .
“To be clear, this event was not sponsored by the university. No university money was used. Two registered student organizations assisted in the planning and promotion of the event. Although student clubs recorded can book space on campus, programming must not involve lewd, lewd or sexual activity, he said.
Donohue complimented Oldham’s response.
“Congratulations to Tennessee Technological University President Philip Oldham for speaking out against an anti-Catholic event on his campus,” Donohue said in a statement posted on the Catholic League’s website.
“Chairman Oldham acted responsibly, so I’m braking. “However, Catholics should be aware of what we were going to do,” he added in reference to his appeal to government officials.
Sponsoring group responds.
In his letter to Oldham, Donohue identifies Joshua Lancaster’s drag performer as WitchCrafted.
Lancaster, who hosts the Witch Crafted podcast, denied acknowledging he was the performer featured in the video in response to a request for comment. He emailed CNA a statement released by the show’s sponsorship group, Upper Cumberland Pride, on Friday.
“The allegations posted on social media are not only inaccurate, but also harmful to all parties involved. The statement continues: “We want to clear up this misunderstanding with the university and continue to educate the community about our organization and the LGBTQIA+ community.”
“The performer in question has never claimed to be a clergyman and has never criticized any religion, including Christianity. Even after the costume change, the performer wore multiple layers of clothing and was covered in cotton fabric. head to toe,” the statement read.
“At none of our family events is a child ever placed in a sexual situation, and we will never condone such behavior,” the band added.
“When we organize events for all ages, artists must ensure that the lyrics of their songs are appropriate and that their performances do not contain any sexual references. We want all attendees to feel comfortable, welcome and have fun,” the statement read.
“While TTU President Phil Oldham’s statement is heartbreaking, UCP supports the artists and their performances at The Back Door Playhouse,” the statement continued.
On its website, Upper Cumberland Pride states that it “units the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and related communities in support of the inclusion, dignity and equality of all individuals”.
Backdoor Playhouse posted a statement on its Facebook page on Friday morning following the release of Oldham’s statement.
“#Pride isn’t something we only do during the month of June. It’s one of our core values at the Backdoor Playhouse. It’s our identity and our culture. It’s us!” The message reads. “We all love our LGBTQ+ friends! We see you! We are on your side!”
Mark Harry Creter, the group’s artistic director, states on its website that the group seeks to “understand theater not only as a medium of artistic expression and a form of entertainment, but also as a window into history, a way to examine the question of what it means to be human and to be an agent of social change.
On Saturday, neither Creter, a drama professor at Tennessee Tech, nor a university representative were available for comment.
Tennessee Tech is located in Cookeville, Tennessee, and has approximately 10,000 students.