By Heather Clark, Christian News Service, March 21, 2019
HOUSTON, Texas — Organizers of the Houston, Texas “Drag Queen Story Time” have decided to discontinue the offering for the “foreseeable future” in the midst of outrage over the revelation that a man who had read to children is a registered sex offender. The organizers state that the library’s failure to run a background check was an oversight, and that they too did not know the man had a criminal record.
“We had insisted and insisted that what we were doing was safe for children, and yet here was a performer who had been charged with sexual assault of a minor.”
“When Trent spoke to the queen in question this weekend, she confirmed that she had been convicted in 2009. It was devastating,” Trent Lira and Devin Will outlined in an article published to Houstonia on Tuesday. “We had insisted and insisted that what we were doing was safe for children, and yet here was a performer who had been charged with sexual assault of a minor.”
“We didn’t know about the conviction prior to last week, but it would have come up if a background check had been conducted. It was a systematic mistake.”
According to reports, Calvin Miller, an evangelist who founded 1Team1Fight Ministries, and others had filed suit against the Houston Public Library in October to contend that Drag Queen Story Time “excessively entangles the government with the religion of secular humanism.”
“The plaintiffs believe that the Drag Queen Story Hour has nothing to do with ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance,’ but with brainwashing the children of Houston to a religious worldview that is destructive, dishonest, desensitizing, dehumanizing, depersonalizing, deranged and dangerous,” the legal complaint read.
Read the suit in full here.
While the lawsuit was later dismissed in court, in the meantime, story time organizers Lira and Will provided the library system with a list of all past readers. Houston Public Library then began enforcing its policy on background checks.
“From that point forward, if any performers wanted to be involved in our story time, or if previous performers wanted to read in the future, they needed to apply as volunteers and undergo background checks—an existing library policy that, until then, had not been enforced in this case, an oversight for which the library has apologized,” Lira and Will explained.
However, in the midst of doing so, it was discovered that volunteer Albert Garza, who used the drag name Tatiana Mala-Niña, had been convicted for aggravated sexual assault of an eight-year-old child. He had read to children three times—once in 2017 and twice last year—but under the name of Nicky Salazar, according to local television station KTRK.
His use of another name, and the fact that he had not provided a birthdate or social security number, was reportedly part of the reason why his case slipped through the cracks.
While there had already been protests surrounding Drag Queen Story Time—to the point that the organizers moved to a different venue, including the self-identified “welcoming and affirming” Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Kindred in Montrose—the matter generated even more outrage when it became public knowledge.
Lira and Will allege that threats have been received over the revelation.
“What started as a fun community event shared between us, a couple of drag queens and kings, and a few families has become a national controversy,” they wrote this week. “People are being threatened. People are being hurt. We believe in what we’re doing, but we don’t believe in putting our friends, our families, or our children in danger.”
“That is why we are choosing to step away—to protect the lives and the livelihoods of the people we love,” the organizers outlined.
Lira and Will state that the event will not be held for the “foreseeable future.” Officials with Houston Public Library have also issued an apology.
“We assure you that this participant will not be involved in any future HPL programs,” a statement reads in part, according to the Houston Chronicle. “We deeply regret this oversight and the concern this may cause our customers. We realize this is a serious matter.”
3/21/19: This article has been updated to correct the name of the event from “Drag Queen Story Hour” to “Drag Queen Story Time.”