At the end of this article is an image in which nudity has been obscured.
This summer, small public libraries in Illinois and a zoo in Montana joined a growing number of taxpayer-supported institutions to feature men wearing provocative women’s clothing at events marketed to children. These “drag queen story hours” can feature children as young as babies tucking money in cross-dressers’ scant clothing and learning to pole dance.
Multiple cross-dressing school and library performers have later been found to have committed sex crimes against children. Others included performers cuddling and apparently flashing children. Such LGBT-themed events and corresponding children’s books are pushed by groups like the American Library Association and teachers unions, which receive large amounts of funding from taxpayers.
What’s notable about the Montana and Illinois drag events for children was the quickly organized community pushback. In Illinois, local libraries’ recent Pride Month drag events resulted in volunteers gathering enough signatures to put taxpayer-funded drag shows for kids as a referendum item on this November’s ballot.
Showdown in Saint Louis
Madison County, where three library drag events occurred this summer, is a Republican-leaning suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri. Madison County board Chairman Kurt Prenzler, a Republican, told The Federalist he collected approximately 200 signatures by going door to door. Most people he encountered had no idea nearby public libraries had held drag queen events just a few weeks prior, he said.
It wasn’t for lack of drama. The appearances sparked a “peaceful prayer protest” at a nearby church, a statement from local pastors, fears of violence, and police presence at the events. Prenzler was targeted for a hit profile last week by the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.
Due to local outcry, one of the two performers decided to do his reading for the Collinsville, Illinois library via Zoom instead of in person. The other performer did two events at the Glen Carbon, Illinois public library, on June 7 and 21. His social media and website contain plenty of eye-popping details that objecting locals sent to librarians before the event, a records request from The Federalist uncovered.
Anyone who searched online for the performer with the stage name Maxi Glamour could find him advertising himself as a “non-binary polka demon” and displaying anti-religious sentiment that would get him canceled if it were anti-gay. His website links to a 2018 Saint Louis NPR profile that notes his performances include “stripping down to a G-string.” The article included a photo of Maxi Glamour gripping his naked buttocks during a show.
Another 2018 Saint Louis NPR article chronicling Glamour’s drag performance at a Saint Louis public library, also linked on his website, indicates he sees his performances at least partly as LGBT recruitment and public relations: “For performer Maxi Glamour, dressing in drag also serves as a way to introduce young audiences to LGBTQ culture and identity. ‘Drag queens are the spearheads of queer culture to some extent,’ [Glamour] said.”
“This is not a program about sexual behaviors,” Glen Carbon Library Director Christine Gerrish told The Federalist in a phone interview about the drag events. “These are programs about accepting people who are different, and overcoming stereotypes.”
Gerrish responded quickly to The Federalist’s interview and open records requests. She also told The Federalist, “We do not background check or anything like that any of our performers; very few libraries do.”
Cross-Library Marketing Push
While LGBT programming bothers some library patrons, it delights others, Gerrish said, and the library strives to offer “something for everyone”: “Generally for an adult program we are lucky to get 10 people. We have 60 registered” for Glamour’s adults-only evening program at the library. The number of participants in the children’s storytime was not available, she told The Federalist in an email, because “We do not take registrations for Storytime events.”
The records showed librarians marketing the drag events to regional youth librarians, LGBT clubs in public schools, and LGBT support groups. One such group a Collinsville librarian contacted to recruit event attendees partners with abortion giant Planned Parenthood to supply people with cross-sex hormones.
The emails also show Glen Carbon Youth Services Director Aimee Villet advertised her library’s drag storytime on a regional listserv for youth librarians. Her subject line was “Drag for Pride.”
“Feel free to attend either program and share this information with any of your families or patrons who may be interested,” she told fellow youth librarians on public payrolls. The emails show she received positive messages back from other librarians.
Pastors: ‘A World Gone Mad’
Upon being alerted their libraries were to feature these performers, local pastors were at first stunned but then quickly took action, said Heath Curtis, the pastor of both Trinity and Zion Lutheran churches in nearby Worden and Carpenter, Illinois.
“It sounds silly that it caught us off guard, but it caught us off guard. We’re very much small-town America, and didn’t really think anyone would be pushing this in our community,” Curtis told The Federalist in a phone interview.
Soon after fellow pastors began discussing the news by text and email, Curtis drafted a statement. The pastors quickly circulated it for signatures, then released it to local media, which included it in their coverage. The emails The Federalist obtained from librarians show them noticing how effective the pastors’ media outreach was in elevating local dissent and generating coverage in multiple local outlets that resulted in reporter phone calls to the libraries.
The pastors also joined a local Assemblies of God church’s public event protesting public institutions sexualizing children. There, they read their statement.
“Inviting a drag queen to perform for children is intended to introduce children to sexually explicit themes. In the words of the Illinois statute, it is ‘prurient.’ It is contrary to common sense, natural law, and all that is good and holy,” the statement says. “…Our communities deserve better from their public servants. We strive to make our churches places of refuge from a world gone mad.”
Curtis noted the church scheduled its public prayer two hours earlier than the storytime to avoid the appearance of threatening attendees. He also said it is all Christians’ duty to work to prevent sexual evils from being perpetrated against the most vulnerable in society, including children and those with destabilized senses of identity due often to trauma.
“It is the church’s prophetic role to stand up and say what is right and wrong in society,” Curtis told The Federalist. “Also to make sure people understand that the gospel calls for repentance and forgiveness of sins.”
Curtis said he hopes more Christians come together locally and across denominational lines to protect the innocence of children and the use of public institutions to destabilize people’s identities: “If sexualizing and sexually grooming children isn’t your bright line for the church to speak publicly, I want to know what your bright line is.”
From Illinois to Montana
The pastors in Illinois also inspired action all the way across the United States, thanks to denominational connections. An entire church body in Montana used phrases from the Illinois pastors’ letter in their public objections to another June drag show for children, stating, “Each child deserves the protection and care not only of his parents, but also of the community at large and it is simply evil to expose children to sexually explicit themes.”
The letter from the Montana district of the Bible-confessing Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod denomination was followed by its president, Rev. Terry Forke, writing to local newspapers about a drag show for kids held on June 22 at Zoo Montana: “Christians do not warn their neighbors against unhealthy behaviors because they hate them. Christians, above all, want what is best for their neighbors,” Forke wrote.
The Montana Family Alliance, Dick Pence of Big Sky Worldview Forum, and the Montana Family Rights Alliance Facebook group spread the word about the drag show and the names of large zoo sponsors so people could voice their opinions about the event.
Multiple pastors also joined a peaceful protest of approximately 200 people at the zoo. Pastor Willis McCall of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Billings, Montana, participated and said public statements and protests are good, yet Christians should also do more.
“Yes, Bible studies are great. But if it’s just a Bible study at your church with everybody there who probably agrees with you, how do you put that into action and actually impact people in your community who don’t know that?” McCall prompted.
Pastors need to equip their people to talk to their friends and neighbors about our culture’s sexual chaos. And all Christians need to make a point to proclaim their moral reasoning in public, host counter-events such as their own public readings of the Bible and high-quality literary works, and work politically to protect children from sexual aggression, McCall suggested.
That means “one of the best first things you can do is get your kids out of public school. You cannot come up with a good reason to put them in,” he told The Federalist. That’s because children don’t belong on the frontlines of spiritual battles; adults do.
Walking the Talk
Back in Collinsville and Glen Carbon, Illinois, locals are already putting McCall’s thoughts into action, not only with the ballot question but also with challenges to local library trustees who won’t act to protect children.
“Shall tax-supported libraries and schools promote drag queen events to minors?” reads the question that will appear on November’s local ballots thanks to local signature-gatherers.
Collecting signatures and placing the question on ballots helps educate townspeople on what their institutions are doing, Prenzler said, since many still don’t know. It also sets the stage for the library trustees’ elections in April.
“What I really hope happens in our community, is that the people in these conservative traditional biblical churches, I hope we sweep the library board elections next time,” Curtis said. “I am very much against retreating to the Christian ghetto. We need to speak, we need to pray, and we need to act.”