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BREAKING: Petition garners national attention to stop JCU drag show

Thousands have voiced their opposition through an online petition, urging the university president to cancel the event, citing its perceived conflict with Catholic teachings.
Tradition%2C+Family%2C+Property+Student+Action+%28TFP%29+is+a+project+that+strives+to+inspire+the+teachings+of+the+Catholic+Church.
TFP Website
Tradition, Family, Property Student Action (TFP) is a project that strives to inspire the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Over 13,000 individuals have signed a petition on Tradition, Family, Property Student Action’s (TFP) website addressing Alan Miciak, president of John Carroll University, and requesting that the university prohibit the Allies student organization— along with the Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies, Peace, Justice, & Human Rights, Political Science, and Sociology & Criminology departments— from hosting the event “Gender as Power and Performance” on April 5, 2024.

This program is a revival of drag shows at John Carroll as there has not been on campus since 2019. Now, five years later, it seems history may be repeating itself. This event features a Q&A panel with professors Shawn Burton, Joe Krivos, Malia McAndrew and Dianna Taylor in addition to a drag show. According to the petition, however, the event contradicts Catholicism and JCU’s Jesuit Catholic mission and identity.

“TFP Student Action promotes moral values on college campuses nationwide and is a campaign of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP),” John Ritchie, the Student Action Director of TFP, told The Carroll News that “Students and families connected to John Carroll University asked us to help them oppose the immoral drag show. So we did, in the form of a petition, urging the university to cancel the event.”

Ritchie says the drag show is a “vulgar display of lust” and how lust is one of the deadly sins. He states that “noble institutions of higher learning should elevate the soul and inspire us to love truth, beauty and goodness, but never degrade students with hypersexualized and immoral shows.”

Noble institutions of higher learning should elevate the soul and inspire us to love truth, beauty and goodness, but never degrade students with hypersexualized and immoral shows.

— Student Action Director John Ritchie

This petition underscores how highly politicized issues like gender and sexuality have become in America and the difficulties institutions are facing in hosting academically-focused events on such controversial topics.

The originator of the petition claims to be a relative of a student at the Borromeo Seminary of the Cleveland Diocese, however, the Diocese did not respond to a request for comment regarding the reference to a seminarian in the petition. Instead, their statement acknowledges that the “program is academic in nature and features four JCU faculty speaking on several interrelated topics, which include the various understandings of gender in both history and the social sciences, along with some of the ways the university can support LGBTQ wellness and mental health.”

JCU issued a statement on the event and the petition on April 4 to The Carroll News which said, “Our university is a place where students should encounter the range of differences that reflect the world in which we live. We are a place that should discuss difficult or controversial topics in a rational and civil manner. Dialogue and increased understanding is part of the formation experience for our student body,” and “‘Gender as Power & Performance’ is first and foremost an academic event – initiated by students and supported by faculty – oriented toward such mutual learning.”

Fr. James Bretzke, S.J., told The Carroll News that “Having an academic discussion of gender simply cannot be equated with ‘promoting unnatural behavior’… I find [the petition’s] accusation to be false and defamatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns such discourse as violations against both truth and charity.”

Erin Waner ‘27, president of JCU’s Allies Club, said, “We’re disappointed that there are members of the Carroll community who are strongly opposed to the event…however, both the event and the Allies club have the support of the administration and many faculty, staff, students and alumni. We will not let this dissuade us from our goal of ensuring that everyone in the queer community is safe, accepted and free to express themselves both on and off campus.”

We will not let this dissuade us from our goal of ensuring that everyone in the queer community is safe, accepted and free to express themselves both on and off campus.

— Erin Waner 27'

Taylor, a professor of philosophy on the panel, said, “It is not surprising that an event which brings [gender and sexuality] into conversation has raised some controversy, especially since the petition was picked up by a highly organized national organization.”

“I believe indeed there is corruption involved here, but the corruption is located in the approach of the TFP organization,” Bretzke said, “The term ‘drag show’ has a fairly commonly understood meaning in contemporary society and whatever is scheduled for April 5 is certainly NOT in that genre.”

As of April 4, “The university has confirmed that the panel, Q&A and drag performances will go ahead as scheduled,” and “Neither the Allies board nor the club itself have faced any significant backlash or harassment,” said Waner.

However, Ritchie states that he hopes the petition will halt the event, stating “I’m sure the TFP petition to stop the drag show is pleasing to God. And what’s pleasing to God is always successful.”

Regarding safety concerns, Jeffrey Daberko, chief of the JCU Police Department, told The Carroll News that “JCUPD is fully aware of the event and will provide appropriate coverage to ensure the safety of all participants and attendees and compliance with relevant university policies.”

View Comments (26)
About the Contributors
Laken Kincaid
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].
Tate Farinacci
Tate Farinacci, Managing Editor
Tate Farinacci is the Managing Editor for The Carroll News, from Chardon, Ohio. He is currently a junior at John Carroll University, pursuing a major in Political Science with a concentration in Legal Studies, along with minors in Philosophy, Communication and Peace, Justice, and Human Rights. Beyond his involvement with The Carroll News, Tate is a member of the John Carroll Speech and Debate Team and the new Mock Trial Team. He also serves as a peer learning facilitator for the Political Science department and works as a campus tour guide for the Office of Admissions. Tate maintains an active lifestyle by going to the gym, running and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He's an ardent reader, appreciates journaling, and loves to cook in his free time.
Amelia Marlow
Amelia Marlow, Campus Culture Beat Reporter
Amelia Marlow is a beat reporter for the Campus and World sections of The Carroll News. She is from Madison, OH and a Junior at John Carroll University majoring in Communications (concentrating in Integrated Marketing) and double minoring in Leadership Development and Psychology. Amelia has been a member of The Carroll News staff since the start of her third year of college. In addition to writing for The Carroll News, Amelia plays the clarinet in four musical ensembles at John Carroll: Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Pep Band and a chamber group that performs at Sunday night mass. She is the President of the Pep Band and a member of the Improv Club. Amelia is also a librarian for JCU’s Department of Liturgical Music and Musical Arts and a Peer Learning Facilitator for the Communications major. Amelia will be a marketing intern for JCU’s Academic Success Center in the spring of 2024. When Amelia isn’t busy at John Carroll, she can be found sleeping, watching funny videos and game shows, coloring, completing jigsaw puzzles and spending time with friends and family. In the future, Amelia hopes to attend graduate school and is interested in pursuing a career somewhere in advertising, public relations or journalism. To contact Amelia, email her at [email protected].

Comments (26)

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  • J

    JCU AlumApr 19, 2024 at 12:23 am

    JCU continues to impress with the university’s commitment to foster values in complete opposition to Catholic teaching. As an alum with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Carroll, I can confidently state that Carroll is on the list of schools excluded in my oldest child’s current college search, nor will it be on the table for any of my children.

    To the “professor” claiming that drag shows are not sexual in nature, read up on the performers hired to come to campus. Google any of them, read their interviews and the “why” and “what” they do in their own words, and circle back. Maybe I’m misunderstanding one of the stage names, “Ryder Slowly”, and my mind is just in the gutter.

    There were plenty of alum, myself included, who signed that petition. Sadly, JCU has promoted things in opposition to Catholic teaching for decades.

    Reply
  • J

    JCU StudentApr 14, 2024 at 7:09 pm

    Fr. James Bretzke is a coward and should be removed from his position in the Catholic church. It’s spineless men like that who muddy the teachings of Christ to promote “mob mentality”. Very sad to see someone with that power misuse it so grossly.

    Reply
  • S

    SteveApr 13, 2024 at 11:58 am

    As a JCU alum and lifelong Cleveland native, I’m proud to denounce any attempt to skew the human person. I pray the drag show gets canceled and all the work of gender theorists fail. And I pray for genuine conversion to Truth, not the “truth” of what someone merely feels.

    Reply
  • J

    JCU AlumApr 9, 2024 at 4:19 pm

    I’m not opposed to anyone going about their lives in any way they deem right, the only person who gets to decide if what they deem is “right” and is truly the way to live, is God. That being said, the argument that no one is forced to go and finding somewhere else to go put your money — is asinine. The vast majority of the student population, both current and former, chose the school because of their Jesuit connections and belief systems. I can’t seem to comprehend how that is so easily allowed to be bypassed to allow events like these on campus. If you have a problem with people opposing these events, go to another small school without religious affiliation or even better go to a public state school where these events are prominent. I find it hard to believe that a university with such a level of prestige as John Carroll University, is so easily swayed on their foundational beliefs. I do believe all students should feel welcome, but why should that result in a drag show, an event that’s focused on such a segmented and small population of John Carroll’s community. Furthermore, why not host this event on an off campus location, associate the event with the Allied group and that be it. I think Al Miciak and John Carroll’s leaders need to address how this relates to the foundational principles this school and the Jesuit church were founded upon.

    Reply
  • S

    Shannon EppichApr 9, 2024 at 11:43 am

    It’s so disappointing to see this is still an ongoing issue. As someone who went to this university, was apart of the JCU Allies, and experienced another instance of the drag show being removed, we have learned nothing. Finding people who express themselves should never be something deemed “immoral.” These are people, too. If you do not like the way the school is run, I recommend finding somewhere else to put your money. I am proud that they are finally once again more openly celebrating gender and sexuality difference amongst student. As an alumni, I hope for future students to feel safe to express themselves on campus, no matter what their religion, gender, or race is. No matter your religion, our main mission as human beings should be to express kindness and compassion with those who differ from us.

    Reply
  • J

    JCU StudentApr 8, 2024 at 11:28 am

    The drag show is an opportunity for students to experience something new; they can come out of that disagreeing with the practice. If someone does not want to go, no one is forced to. It’s one thing to insulate your own worldview. But if anyone is so opposed to learning that they would petition against the rights of (adult) students, then maybe they should come to terms with the fact that higher education is just not their business to speak on. It’s one thing to shut new ideas out of your own life, but to try to force universities (universities that they have no stake in! These aren’t even JCU students!) to censor everything outside that narrow view is completely against the values of education. If John Carroll gives into demands like this, then they would be seriously discrediting themselves.

    Reply
    • J

      Jcu alumApr 9, 2024 at 12:21 pm

      If you want to go to a drag show, go. But don’t have them on a Jesuit university. This is not a difficult concept to understand.

      Reply
      • J

        JCU StudentApr 21, 2024 at 2:41 pm

        It’s not the responsibility of LGBT students to shelter everyone else’s insulated worldview. JCU isn’t exactly a bastion of safety and inclusivity for LGBT students, but if you think they have too many rights here, then you are welcome to go somewhere else. The Bible condemns hatred, discrimination, and bigotry much more than it condemns drag.

        Reply
  • J

    Jan LukasApr 6, 2024 at 1:08 am

    Dear JCU Professor~You misunderstand. To clarify, the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents “homosexual acts as acts of great moral depravity” and “intrinsically disordered.” A Catholic university promotion of an event titled, “Gender as Power and Performance,” epitomizes self-absorption, obsessiveness and normalization of LGBTQ+ culture. The “performance” part still is not compassionate to the performer. Here’s a resource for you that is rational with “uncommon” common sense. Read Robert R. Reilly’s book interview on aleteia.org “Making Gay Okay”

    Reply
  • J

    Jan LukasApr 5, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    The panel discussion is not the issue. Let the professors have their academic freedom. However, in the name of diversity and inclusion, is it necessary to have entertainment that degrades women and provocatively accents sexuality?
    We are called to walk with our fellow travelers, who struggle with anxiety, mental and depression issues, but it’s not compassionate to encourage behavior of those who suffer from disordered behavior to “perform.”
    We want what is good, true and beautiful for us all. A drag performance is none of these. It seems that it’s easier to subordinate morality to political ideology then take a stand with students to initiate content for university events. A drag show has no redeeming qualities.
    Isn’t the Catholic Church supposed to “move the world“ not “move with the world?“

    Reply
    • J

      JCU ProfessorApr 5, 2024 at 5:17 pm

      Your remarks proceed from several completely unfounded (if not outright false) assumptions, chief among them that (1) the principal aim of drag performances is sexual titillation; (2) that drag performances exlucisvely involve men dressing up as women; (3) that men dressing up as women “degrades” women; (4) that men who perform in drag are necessarily gay or trans; (5) that gay and trans people are suffering from mental illnesses; and (6) that you get to decide what counts as “good, true, and beautiful” for everyone else.

      The Catholic Church has never dogmatically pronounced that it is wrong or immoral for men to dress up as women (or vice versa), nor that homosexuality or trans identity is a form of mental illness, nor that gender and biological sex are equivalent, nor that students and faculty at Catholic universities are prohibited from discussing issues pertaining to gender and sexuality.

      If you don’t like drag shows, then don’t attend them. If you don’t want your son or daughter to study at a university where drag shows are permitted, then counsel them accordingly. If the Church doesn’t want Catholic universities to allow drag shows, then let the Church issue a binding directive to that effect.

      Reply
      • J

        Jcu alumApr 9, 2024 at 12:26 pm

        Don’t worry. We will counsel them accordingly, and also not give our money to a so-called Jesuit school.

        Reply
  • J

    JCU ProfessorApr 5, 2024 at 12:45 pm

    The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property is an ultra-reactionary and crypto-fascist organization that has been repeatedly condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Reply
    • J

      Jack RitterApr 5, 2024 at 3:24 pm

      What are the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Catholic credentials to condemn a peaceful organization it happens to disagree with?

      Just curious.

      Reply
      • J

        JCU ProfessorApr 5, 2024 at 4:00 pm

        A “peaceful” organization that supported the Salvadoran junta (which murdered scores of Catholic clergy) in the 1980s. A “peaceful” organization whose members were linked to attempted attacks on abortion providers in the 1990s and, more recently, in the deadly riots in Charlottesville, VA in 2016…

        Reply
        • J

          Jack RitterApr 6, 2024 at 11:35 am

          Please look up the meaning of slander.
          The “links” you mention are false.

          Reply
          • J

            JCU ProfessorApr 6, 2024 at 5:37 pm

            I could inundate you with evidence to the contrary, but we both know that would be an enormous waste of time. You and the organization you (evidently) carry water for are scarcely good-faith actors.

  • E

    Emma ArrighiApr 5, 2024 at 11:35 am

    One other thing about the petition is that many of the signatures are from people not at all connected to JCU or even Cleveland, especially among those who have shared it on Twitter. TFP has the petition displayed on their website homepage, so it likely attracts anyone who visits their page. While it has garnered “national attention,” that attention has probably been more from people across the country than members of the JCU community whom the event actually affects. I think the University’s statement standing by the event and the number of faculty involved in the event illustrate that there is a lot of backing for it at JCU.

    Reply
    • J

      JCU ProfessorApr 5, 2024 at 1:03 pm

      In the 1970s and 80s, the TFP played an active role in propping up right-wing dictatorships in Central and South American that deployed death squads to murder trade unionists and human rights activists, including many priests and nuns.

      Reply
      • J

        Jason EastmanApr 5, 2024 at 3:31 pm

        Sounds like old news. But TFP is not a political group. It works in the realm of values, culture, and ideas — not politics.

        The question that JCU needs to answer is this:

        If drag shows fuel the sin of lust, and lust is still a sin, why is the Catholic institution allowing it?

        Thanks.

        Reply
        • J

          JCU ProfessorApr 5, 2024 at 4:14 pm

          It isn’t old news to anyone who knew and loved Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel, whose blood is very much on TFP’s hands.

          As for sin and what fuels it, th question YOU need to answer is this: if transphobic and homophobic rhetoric fuels malicious violence against trans people, and if malicious violence is still a sin, why does TFP spew transphobic and homophobic rhetoric?

          As a Jesuit institution, we take seriously our universal apostolic preference to “walk with the excluded.” As a Catholic institution, we take seriously Jesus’ call to love others, especially those on the receiving end of hatred, discrimination, and intolerance.

          Reply
          • J

            Jason EastmanApr 6, 2024 at 11:39 am

            Your logic is flawed because it follows this pattern: Hitler was Catholic. TFP is Catholic. Therefore, TFP is responsible for Hitler’s crimes.

            I’m not convinced by your comments against TFP.

          • J

            JCU ProfessorApr 6, 2024 at 5:44 pm

            Hitler was a Catholic, but his ideology wasn’t. In contrast, TFP’s brand of Catholicism is *directly* and *inseparably* linked to its fanatical opposition to communism and, by extension, its enthusiastic support for murderous right-wing juntas in Central and South America.

        • A

          A Rational PersonApr 5, 2024 at 10:09 pm

          “values, culture, and ideas – not politics”

          Values, culture, and ideas (including the ones you happen to agree with) are political. TFP’s staunch anti-communist stance? Political. TFP’s support for anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion organizing? Political. It is absurd and disingenuous to argue otherwise.

          “if drag shows fuel the sin of lust”

          Key word here being ‘if’. I didn’t feel any ‘lust’ during the drag show. The fact that lust was the first thing that came to your mind when you saw the words ‘drag show’ says a lot more about you than it does about the event or anyone involved with it.

          Reply
          • J

            JCU ProfessorApr 6, 2024 at 5:45 pm

            Very well said!

          • C

            Concerned parentApr 7, 2024 at 2:44 pm

            The promotion of drag is inseparable with the Sexual Revolution, particularly the rainbow waving part of that revolution.

            Sadly, Drag Queen Story Hour is now forcing itself on kids as young as 2, 3 and 4. At least one adult drag queen who promotes DQSH for children in Lafayette, Louisiana, stated that the purpose of the activity: “This is going to be the grooming of the next generation,” he said in a public library hearing forum.

            Drag culture is harming children’s innocence. That’s why faithful Catholics who love God oppose it.