Over the weekend, a church in Texas became a lightning rod for protesters and counter-protesters alike when it invited members of "all ages" to a drag event to support so-called "trans and exploring" minors.
On Saturday evening, the First Christian Church of Katy, Texas, an affiliate of the Disciples of Christ denomination, held a bingo event featuring drag queens that was billed as fun for the whole family.
"We create a place for people to feel welcomed and understand that there will always be people who disagree with us," said Reverend Heather Tolleson, the pastor of the church.
The purpose of the bingo event — and the adults-only drag show later that night — was to raise funds for the church's "Transparent Closet," a resource where "trans and exploring teens, youth and young adults" can find cross-sex clothing, shoes, and accessories such as makeup.
The church itself claims to be "a place where all are welcome," and nearly all of the events and ministries listed on its website refer to LGBTQ issues in some way.
However, the all-ages drag event outraged many others in the community, including parents and members of other churches, who claim that drag queens and those who sponsor them have no business marketing such entertainment to children.
Rebecca Clark, a member of the Fort Bend-based County Citizens Defending Freedom, denounced the drag bingo event.
"We are done tolerating the exploitation and sexualization of our children in this country," Clark told the Epoch Times.
"Drag queens and children don’t mix,” added Sarah Feigleson of CCDF. “These events are happening in your back yard. Stand up and raise a respectful ruckus."
Along with CCDF, members of the Proud Boys protested the event, as did other churches. Several Catholics prayed the rosary.
On the other side of the street stood supporters of the family drag bingo day. Members of Antifa wore all black and obscured their faces. Others who were not associated with Antifa proudly showed their identities and their support for exposing kids to LGBTQ-themed entertainment.
"Drag in itself is just a costume," said one unnamed man wearing a face mask and holding a pride flag. "It's no different than someone dressed up like a superhero at a comic convention or someone who puts on a Halloween costume."
Both sides were heavily armed, and a steady police presence remained in the middle of the road to help keep the peace during drag bingo night. There were no reports of violence or arrests, and only church members were allowed to enter the property.
Though the event itself was controversial, there was yet another aspect of it that drew further ire from critics. The event was originally supposed to feature drag queen Tisha Flowers, aka Jaysen Kettl. Not only does Kettl now don a macabre persona when dressed as Flowers, but he also has a troubling past. Back in 2004, Kettl, then 17, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder after administrators at his school learned that he and at least one other student had plotted to commit a mass school shooting. Thankfully, the plot was foiled before anyone could carry it out.
However, once Kettl's criminal history was made known, the church quietly removed him from event promotions. It is unclear whether Kettl attended the event.
Despite the controversy, the event sold out and was deemed a success, Rev. Tolleson claimed.