The Rev. Dr. Carla Cheatham hopes the voices of her church’s Love Choir will provide a peaceful counterpoint to the chorus of protesters planning to show up at Drag Show for a Cause, 7 p.m. Saturday in the Fellowship Hall at New Braunfels’ Faith United Church of Christ (Faith UCC).
Ticket holders to the sold-out event will be treated to an outdoor performance as they arrive in the parking lot.
Not so welcoming but also expected to be standing outside along with their followers are vocal critics like Canyon Lake’s Steve Ceh, founder of the New Braunfels Trump Train and pastor of Solomon’s Porch, and Tayler Hansen, an ‘independent journalist’ who has appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight and believes drag queens sexualize children.
“We’re going to sing for those walking in to let them see smiling, loving faces and not address the protesters,” Cheatham said. “They have their constitutional right and so do we.”
Cheatham said Faith UCC stands for love, inclusion and justice and doesn’t want to join in with the raucous “noise” that online forums are making about the family-friendly drag show.
Supporters and members of Faith UCC have been asked not to respond to these online taunts or threats.
The event is a fundraiser for Connections, an organization that supports at-risk youth in Comal and 17 other counties.
Drag artists accustomed to providing daytime family-oriented shows will perform.
Cheatham believes only parents have the right to decide whether a child is old enough to attend a drag show.
“To age-limit the show would add to public rhetoric that vilifies drag queens as anything other than what they are, which is performers, professionals and artists who have dignity and worth just like anyone else,” she said.
Cheatham said she has spoken with New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman, city leaders and New Braunfels police (NBPD) about her security concerns and trusts police will step up should the need arise.
In a statement, NBPD said it is “aware of the event and has been notified that the organizers have hired security.”
While protesters have promised to keep things peaceful, Cheatham said online rhetoric is ramping up and there are indications they may have purchased tickets in order to get inside and disrupt Saturday’s drag performance.
However, security protocols are in place and anyone who does so will be removed from the church to protect everyone’s “safety and right to have a good and peaceful evening, free of harassment,” she said.
Controversy isn’t anything new to Faith UCC, which is part of the “reform tradition.”
The church ordained the first gay man in 1972, and in 2005 voted for equal marriage rights and for those of “trans” people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were identified as having at birth.
The New Braunfels church describes itself as a welcoming community that seeks to embrace diversity, empower a spirit of service, explore the mysteries of God and life’s complexities while engaging as Christians in the work of justice for all creation.
In 2021, sign-carrying Christians picketed New Braunfels’ Riverside Pride Festival and talked about a God who would condemn them to hell.
Two days before New Braunfels Pride Fest in June 2022, Faith UCC hosted the first Annual Interfaith Pride Worship Service.
Twenty-two clergy from 17 different faith traditions spoke to a packed house.
Speaking about that in an April 28 interview with Lynn Silver, a columnist with the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, Cheatham said “hearts were moved, inspired, healed and changed as it was the first time many of those gathered had heard a clergy person speak of blessing and belovedness, rather than curse over them.”
After the June 2022 ceremony, Cheatham said Faith UCC realized it had unintentionally excluded drag performers and wanted to remedy that with a 2023 charity event headlined by local drag queens.
Organizers had no idea that drag shows would blow up the following year in the Texas senate, which on April 5 approved two bills that would place restrictions on the types of drag performances children can attend and remove state funding from libraries that host any event with performers in drag.
“What had been a benign issue became hot-button,” Cheatham said. “This wasn’t a media stunt. We weren’t trying to poke the bear; we were trying to highlight the gifts of all members of God’s creation and having them be seen as worthy.”
Faith UCC will stand with and in front of those targeting LGBTTQIA+ persons and their allies who are targeted by discrimination, she said.
“And for our siblings of faith who struggle to accept what we are doing, our greatest hope is to do this for equality and inclusion in such a way that it may be a means of grace by which we can learn to disagree in love, and to never allow that disagreement to bring harm to any of God’s created,” Cheatham said.