San Francisco Bay Times drawn into Sisters/Dodgers controversy

by Fred Kuhr

The San Francisco Bay Times has been implicated in a controversy involving the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and the well-known drag activist group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

June 8, 2023, cover of San Francisco Bay Times

It all started on May 17, when the Dodgers announced they were disinviting the Sisters to their Pride Night on June 16, an odd decision since the team had previously announced the Sisters were to be given their Community Hero award, according to the Bay Times.

But in a tweet, the Dodgers said they were responding to an anti-drag, and anti-Sisters, outcry. “Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters’ inclusion in our evenings, … we are deciding to remove them from this year’s group of honorees.”

The move was praised by many on the right, but openly gay California State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, tweeted, “Really sad to see the Dodgers cave to pressure and kick drag queens out of a Pride celebration.”

The Dodgers eventually apologized and relented, posting on Instagram: “After much thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their friends and families.”

But it wasn’t until infamous anti-LGBTQ activist Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, got involved that the San Francisco Bay Times was implicated in the brouhaha.

Donahue published a piece entitled, “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (A timeline of anti-Catholic actions committed by these bigots).” In the piece, he quotes Bay Times columnist Sister Dana Van Iquity … from 1992!

“On Parade, a publication of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration Committee, published an article by ‘Sister Dana Van Iquity’ which said the motto of the Sisters is ‘Encroach not on my crotch!’ and ‘Leave my loins alone,’” he wrote.

Donohue then went on to mention the Bay Times: “On the cover of the April 1, 1999, edition of the San Francisco Bay Times there was a full-page picture of a Sister superimposed on a cross-like photo with his hands stretched out, imitating Jesus on the Cross.” The Catholic League’s website includes a full timeline of the Sisters’ activities, going back to 1979.

As the Bay Times analyzed this in an editorial, “It suggests that the Catholic League has for decades kept a file and/or list on such matters, comparable to the tactics of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy … during the era of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. The Bay Times cover, until now, was not digitized or prominently mentioned on the internet, and Sister Dana did not even remember the 1992 piece — now 31 years old. A lot of work therefore must have gone into the years-long creation of the timeline, and likely involving others beyond Donohue.”

According to the Bay Times, that 1999 cover was a poster from the Sisters advertising the 20th anniversary of their popular Easter in the Park event. The poster shows Grand Mother Vish-Knew, who founded the Sisters in 1979, wearing one of the original authentic nun’s habits that led to the organization’s creation.

That 1999 Easter event was also criticized by right-wing religious forces, just like in the recent Dodgers controversy. But like with the Dodgers, the Sisters triumphed.

To celebrate this year’s victory, the June 8 edition of the Bay Times showcased a front-and-back page cover photo created by artist Max Koo highlighting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. “His art often cleverly draws inspiration from iconic past images — in this case, the cover of the Beatles’ 1967 album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the newspaper explained. It also included a key, naming all 82 Sisters featured on the cover.

Volume 25
Issue 4

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