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A homophobic 'evangelical' targeted this Alabama pastor. She set a boundary.
Rev. Julie Conrady, a Unitarian Universalist, said she regrets nothing.
She didn’t even watch the video. She didn’t want to.
Rev. Julie Conrady, the pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, had become the most recent target of a vocal “street preacher” and his wife, a couple known for their often homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic tirades at college campuses and other venues, online and otherwise.
In a video posted to social media earlier this month, the couple attacked Conrady repeatedly, calling her a “degenerate” and condemning the pastor for hosting a drag show at her church as a show of solidarity against a proposed state law that would ban some such performances in Alabama. The video also included thinly veiled threats — the couple suggesting at one point, for example, that Conrady would be better off drowned in the sea than supporting the LGBTQ community.
“Drag is freedom. Drag is sacred and holy. Drag is loving our neighbor. Drag is and will always be.” -Rev. Julie Conrady
The next Sunday, with dozens of congregants cheering her on, Conrady said she regretted nothing. And she said when she’d heard about the video, she set a boundary.
“For me, one of my boundaries is ending discussion at the point of someone devaluing another human being,” Conrady said, her rainbow stole draping over her black robe. “I was targeted this week by a white nationalist, and I immediately set my boundaries. I didn’t even watch the video, because I didn’t want to. And that’s okay.”
At the end of April, Conrady had hosted a drag show at her church — an act meant to signal solidarity in the face of attacks by the Alabama Legislature on the art form. The move would soon draw the ire of online radicals.
“We celebrate the existence of drag in our congregation and wider community, and reject all forms of gatekeeping this historic art,” Conrady said at the time. “Politicians are more focused on banning drag than on keeping children safe in school, protecting workers, preserving our environment, and dismantling the historic oppressions that hurt us all. Drag is freedom. Drag is sacred and holy. Drag is loving our neighbor. Drag is and will always be.”
Before the drag show began, Conrady stood before members of her congregation in attendance.
“I am the minister of this church, and I fully endorse this drag show,” she said.
That endorsement would soon be the focal point of the attacks against the Birmingham pastor.
“Drag is bondage. Drag is men that are bound up,” one of the self-proclaimed evangelists said in the video. “That’s why they’re all drug addicts, alcoholics, suicidal, depressed. And they’re not depressed because of Christians. They’re depressed because they’re Christ-less.”
The couple expressed support for Alabama legislators who filed a bill that, if passed, would outlaw drag shows or other, similar performances in the presence of minors.
The couple opposes the “alphabet mafia,” they said, and called drag “sexual molestation.”
“It would be better for a millstone to be tied around your neck and you drown in the sea than you to hurt these little ones,” the woman in the video said, her partner quickly echoing her.
“What would Jesus do?” He asked. “He tells you what he’d do. He warned you. It’d be better for you to have a large rock chained to your neck and tossed into the ocean.”
For her part, Conrady said she’s open to debate on a wide range of subjects, both religious and secular. But some things are not on the table for debate, she explained.
“The personhood of other people is not up for debate,” she said. “Hate is not debate.”
Soon, Conrady turned her attention directly to the Alabama Legislature, suggesting that the body shift its focus to the critical issues that are facing our state and away from pointless, hate-filled moralizing.
“We need to stop legislating how other people live their lives and how they love other people and focus on ensuring that people are fed and sheltered and safe,” she said.
Her congregation applauded.
Jessica York, the director of congregational life for the Unitarian Universalist Association, said she attended the church service in Birmingham to support Conrady and the Birmingham congregation.
“I’m here today to… show the support the Unitarian Universalist Association has for you,” she told those gathered. “We are aware of what’s going on, and we’re on this journey with you.”
York said she’s proud of the work Conrady and her congregation have done in their walk toward justice for all.
“We are going to keep demanding justice for trans and queer people,” York said. “We are going to keep demanding justice for female-bodied women to have bodily autonomy. We are going to keep demanding justice for people who are wrongfully incarcerated, for brown and Black bodies that have been beaten and broken and killed and for everyone out there who is suffering from oppression. And we’re not going to let hate turn us around.”
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