UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new president at a Jesuit university in Ohio has canceled a drag queen show, leading to mixed reactions and activism among students.
Michael Johnson, Ph.D., became president of John Carroll University (JCU) in University Heights, Ohio, June 1, 2018, where an annual drag queen show had been occurring since 2013. Johnson canceled the show largely in response to an op-ed piece published in The Carroll News Oct. 1, 2018.
Declan Leary, the author of the op-ed titled "Drag queens and Jesuits," discussed the contradictory nature of having a drag queen show on a Catholic campus:
I can't help but wonder who thought it would be a good idea to hire grown men to dress up as women on a Catholic campus for the deviant entertainment of misguided young people. It is a terrifying testament to the decay of our faith and our University that, throughout the approval process for this event and the six years for which it has now continued, not a single person in a position of authority stood up (or at least stood with sufficient strength) to suggest that perhaps such a flagrant celebration of sexual perversity might just be wrong.
This offense, and the many like it being perpetrated on other nominally Catholic campuses across the world, is more than just a deviation from doctrine, though that in itself is sufficient cause for condemnation. It is an assault on the dignity of the human person and the divine gift of ordered sexuality. Even further, it is a scandalous attempt at the corruption of Catholic youth by the very priests and laypeople charged with their education.
The drag queen show being a part of the "muddled Catholic character" of JCU, Leary highlighted the decisions Johnson would have to make as a new president:
Michael Johnson, in his first year as president of the University, has some important decisions to make. Chief among them will be whether to redeem the muddled Catholic character of this institution or to continue its descent into heathenry and heresy. If he chooses the former, his most important task will be to purge this place of the evils which have invaded it in the names of tolerance and progress. He should start with the drag show, for which there can be no rational justification, and focus our community's efforts and attention on much more important matters.
The cancellation of the drag queen show has caused mixed reactions from students.
Eddie Jenkins, president of the JCU student union programming board, told Fox 8 Cleveland that he was disappointed: "Especially as the first openly gay president of the programming board, I think it's something that is very important to the community. Because it allows people to engage in experiential learning."
Another student named Kyle said: "They don't need to have the university sponsor activities that go against the teachings of the Church."
Lauren Phillip, vice president for communications at JCU student government, launched a petition to have the drag show reinstated while Phillip and her friend Leah VanDine, vice president of diversity, equality and inclusion at JCU student union — who refers to herself as "she/her • commie • blm • feminist • punch a nazi • jcu '20 • fat" on her Twitter bio — launched a GoFundMe to raise money for an off-campus drag show.
The petition has a goal of 1,000 signatures and challenges Johnson for not including students enough in the decision-making process:
We, as students of John Carroll University, would like to take this time to express our disagreement with and disappointment in the decision that President Johnson (he/him/his) has made in regard to the University's annual drag show. In a meeting that Dr. Johnson called before the beginning of the semester on August 28th, student leaders Autumn Franz (she/her/hers) '20, Eddie Jenkins (he/him/his) '20, and Leah VanDine (she/her/hers) '20 were informed by President Michael Johnson that he has made the decision to not allow the annual drag show to happen on campus this year, citing many conversations with seminarians, Jesuits, and the Catholic Bishop of Cleveland. However, Dr. Johnson's decision was minimally influenced by students as evidenced by his few meetings with students, even though many have shown support for the event.
The GoFundMe has a goal of $2,000 to cover all the expenses for an off-campus show: "In an effort to ensure that a drag show will be held for John Carroll students, we are asking you to donate any amount of money that will be put towards a venue, paying the drag queens, transportation, and other necessities."
The petition had 456 signatures and the GoFundMe had raised $960 from 28 donors as of press time.
The Carroll News that published the op-ed by Leary has been serving John Carroll University since 1925; the drag queen show that has recently been canceled began at John Carroll University in 2013.
Church Militant reached out to Johnson for comment but received no response as of press time.