On Saturday, October 8, members of the Old Paths Baptist Church and the organization “Humans Against Groomers” gathered outside of The First United Church of Christ (UCC) near the Weitz Center to protest the UCC’s “Gospel Drag Show” event. Approximately twenty protestors stood on the sidewalk near the church holding signs with slogans ranging from Biblical quotations against abortion and female pastorship to signs reading “Death to Pedofiles.”
The event they were protesting was a drag show in the church where drag performers dressed in costumes and make-up sang and danced for those who attended. The show was open to all and was advertised as family-friendly. Drag performers from the local community, led by Craig “Mrs. Moxie” Moxness, hosted the performance for the afternoon.
For a period of three hours, the protest groups heckled anybody approaching or entering the UCC to attend the drag show with calls of “perverts,” “sinners” and “homosexuals.” The Northfield Police dispatched a unit to observe the event to ensure both safety and the fair expression of each party’s freedom of speech.
When asked to comment on why they were protesting, a member of the Old Paths Baptist Church said: “They mean that they are going to dress in drag and they are gonna have children here and they’re gonna have people here…It’s perversion, being perverted in front of children like that, and in front of anybody really and calling it the Gospel. It’s not the Gospel.”
“They’re not here protesting or preaching against it or saying anything about it,” said another member of the Old Paths Church about other Northfield Churches and community members. “It seems like they’re just letting it go on. If you’re supposed to be a church preaching the Gospel then this should bother you.”
One of the protestors further noted: “There’s a lot of churches in Northfield that promote this stuff [referring to the drag show]”. “But this one [The UCC] promotes that “Pride in the Park” event in June. This ‘church’ has taken up a lead on this.”
The Old Paths Baptist Church appeared to be primarily protesting the drag show, however, they also referenced several other issues. Many of the protestors appeared to take umbrage with the UCC’s allowance of women pastors in the church.
“You let a woman become a pastor and this is what you get, folks in Northfield Minnesota,” yelled a preacher from the Old Paths Baptist Church to passersby. “You get a bunch of transexual perverts. That’s why Paul said that women are to keep silent in church. According to the Bible, a woman is not even allowed to speak.”
One member of Humans Against Groomers denied any connection to the Old Paths Church but said that they were “overall on the same page.” The Humans Against Groomers member differentiated the groups’ intentions, however, referring to the Old Paths Church as “hecklers” and saying they were “pretty good at shaming people, and trying to make them feel bad for hosting a children’s event around a drag show.”
With reference to their signs which stated “Death to Groomers” and “Stop Grooming Our Kids,” members were asked if they believed that there were pedophiles inside the church. “Possibly. There may or may not be,” said one protestor.
After three hours, the groups disbanded and left the UCC. The following morning, the Facebook pages and Google Reviews of the UCC were swarmed with negative comments and ratings, with some reading “A church is not a place to groom kids. Get the millstone ready” and “What a complete desecration of my faith. We need another Crusade.” Upon further investigation, it was discovered that very few of the accounts were actually located in Minnesota, most came from outside states.
One of the UCC’s pastors, Cindy Maddox, said about Saturday’s events “We’ve had this event planned for a couple of months, and a couple of days before the event the protestors got wind of it and they began flaming our Facebook page with difficult messages, and then we found out about the planned protest of our event,” said Maddox, “Knowing the potential risk for the people attending, we reached out to the Northfield Police and asked them to be present to make sure everybody’s free speech rights were honored but also that everyone was kept safe and following the laws.”
Maddox had further thoughts regarding the protest itself. “What intrigues me is what their idea of a drag show is, and if they had been inside it would have been nothing like what they imagined,” said Maddox. “The event itself, there was absolutely nothing inappropriate that happened. It was completely family-friendly and there were uplifting songs. Nobody was scantily clad, and nobody even made a sexual innuendo.”
She remarked that the protest and chants outside definitely had an effect on those who attended the drag show. “It was difficult after having to go through such a gauntlet of vile hateful things being stated, because everyone from the second group (Humans Against Groomers) were accusing everyone of being child molesters,” said Maddox. “So after people came in, I watched some of them come through the door just shook. They’ve never had to confront that kind of hatred before. Certainly not coming into a place of worship, but as soon as people got inside there was such a beautiful energy.”
“They were all just yelling at everyone who walked by, including little kids,” said Charlie Ney ’25, a Carleton student who attended the drag show when asked about the protestors. “They were yelling all about how we’re all pedophiles along with other slurs. I remember one man constantly bragging about how he’s traveled the world and never seen people as disgusting as us.”
When asked specifically about the Old Paths Baptist Church, Maddox explained: “I am frustrated by the level of ignorance behind the hate, and whether it is wilful ignorance or not, I don’t know if they’re brainwashed into believing that or if they choose to believe it because it justifies the hatred they harbor, I can’t say which it is.”
Speaking to the history of the Old Paths Church, she added: “They’ve always protested Pride. They are known in the community as Northfield’s equivalent to the Westboro Baptist Church. They have the right to their beliefs and to protest events that disagree with their belief. I think their view of Scripture is extremely limited but they’re a known quantity around here. They don’t scare folks. We just say “Oh, it’s them again.” and move on. That second group [referring to Humans against Groomers] was much scarier.”
In contrast to the protest, Reverend Maddox pointed out the overwhelming support the UCC had received from the local community, saying: “We got a lovely note from some neighbors saying “We don’t go to your church but we share the same values, and are appalled at the protest and just want you to know that we support you.” And this is from people who had to listen to the vile things the protestors shouted for three hours. We have had other progressive churches in the community reach out and offer their support. We have had our own church folks, and I haven’t gotten a single complaint from them. Everybody was supportive of the event despite protests because they felt like it was an important message to send to the community.”
“It was actually quite uplifting to see how many people of all ages came from the town to support the show,” said Ney. “Surprisingly, college students were the minority.”
She closed her statement by summarizing the UCC’s attitude moving forwards, when asked if the protest would have any impact on more LGBTQ-friendly events: “No, it certainly would not”.
Reverend maddox very based.