“Kudos to the president of Tennessee Technological University, Philip Oldham, for taking a strong stand against an anti-Catholic event that took place on his campus,” Donohue said in a statement posted on the Catholic League’s website.
“President Oldham has acted responsibly, which is why I am tapping the brakes. But Catholics should know what we were about to do,” he added, referring to his appeal to government leaders.
Sponsoring group responds
Donohue’s letter to Oldham identifies the drag performer at Joshua Lancaster, using the stage name WitchCrafted.
In a response to a request for comment, Lancaster, who hosts a podcast called Witch Crafted, declined to confirm that he was the performer seen in the video. He emailed CNA a statement issued Friday by Upper Cumberland Pride, the show’s sponsoring group.
“The accusations made on social media are not only false but damaging to all those involved. Our hope is to resolve this misunderstanding with the university and continue to educate the community about our organization and the LGBTQIA+ community,” the statement reads.
“The performer in question never presented themselves as a member of the clergy and did not speak against any religion, including Christianity. The performer also had multiple layers of clothing on, and was covered from neck to toe in fabric, even after the costume change,” the statement continued.
“At any of our family friendly events, no children are ever put in any sexual situation, nor would we ever consider that an acceptable thing to do,” the group said.
“When we hold all ages events, performers are asked to ensure that song lyrics are clean and that there is no sexual connotation to their performances. We want everyone in attendance to feel safe, welcome, and to have a good time,” the statement said.
“While the statement from the TTU President Phil Oldham is disheartening, UCP stands behind the performers and their performances at The Back Door Playhouse,” the statement added.
Upper Cumberland Pride says on its website that it “unites the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and allied communities in support of the inclusion, dignity, and equality of all people.”
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Backdoor Playhouse posted a statement on its Facebook page Friday morning after Oldham’s statement was released.
“#Pride isn’t a thing we do one month out of the year. It’s part of our core principles here at the Backdoor Playhouse. It’s our culture and our identity. It’s us!” the post reads. “To all of our LGBTQ+ friends: We love you! We see you! We stand with you!”
On its webpage, the group’s artistic director, Mark Harry Creter, says the group seeks “to understand theatre not only as a means of artistic expression and a form of entertainment but as a window into history, a way to examine the question of what it means to be human, and a vehicle for social change.”
Neither Creter, a theater professor at Tennessee Tech, nor a university spokesperson were immediately available for comment Saturday.
Tennessee Tech is located in Cookeville, Tennessee, and has an enrollment of about 10,000 students.