Valley faith leaders raise concerns about Pride Night at Fresno Chaffee Zoo

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Faith, city and county leaders met at Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno on Wednesday to publicly oppose the family-friendly Pride Night scheduled at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo this week.The leaders called out not only the event at the zoo, but also the raising of the Pride Flag at City Hall and a prayer held at that ceremony

A statement signed by more than 60 pastors and board members of various Valley churches condemned the flag-raising ceremony.Councilman Garry Bredefeld said, “What was a problem for me, outside of the fact that the flag was being put up outside City Hall, was that evil blasphemous prayer attacking Jesus Christ and Christians.”

Senior Pastor of the Cornerstone Church, Jim Franklin said, “This is not a political statement, this is about our biblical understanding and our expression of our freedom of religion.”

But the call to prayer on Wednesday at Eaton Plaza led to tension.

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community said they were feeling intimidated as rhetoric surrounding the Pride Night fundraiser was also called into question.

The fundraiser is a private after-hours event. Many raised concern surrounding the drag show scheduled to take place at the event.

Pastor Franklin said, “We have the right to disagree. We have freedom of religion. People have their different viewpoints, but when it escalates to the demonization of people and the physical attacks of people or abuse of people I would stand against that in every way.”

Outside City Hall, in stark contrast, members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community gathered.

Organizer Haley White said, “People are getting death threats and for people to come out and see they’re supported… that means something.”

Trans E Motion chair Zayn Anthony said, “What we have happening now is because of the lack of education and lack of awareness, besides the religious aspect of it.”

Rosio Velasco-Stoll is the founder of Fresno’s spectrum center, an LGBTQ+ resource center, but came to represent the drag community saying, “People don’t realize there’s such high restrictions and things called upon us when doing family-friendly shows.”

Rosio says when it comes to drag entertainment at family-friendly events – costume, music and decorum are carefully reviewed.

Velasco-Stoll added: “It takes years before someone can be put out there for the family. So a lot of the things that are being seen are from local club shows and it’s being exploited as something demonic.”

The Fresno Chaffee Zoo released a statement that said, in part:

Fresno Chaffee Zoo is proud to support the diverse audiences of the Central Valley. Our Family Pride Night event is just one of our many inclusive programs that welcomes and celebrates the communities and cultures of our region. As one of the leading cultural institutions in the Central Valley, it is our responsibility to ensure our zoo is safe and welcoming for all. We will continue to work with local organizations to welcome our neighbors and provide opportunities, events and experiences that bring people together.

Our private, after-hours Family Pride Night event on Friday, June 24 will be age-appropriate fun for families and allies of the LGBTQ+ community and will include games, community partner booths, G-rated entertainment and interactions with our Animal Ambassadors. The zoo will close to the public at 4pm, and our Family Pride Night event begins at 6pm.

You can find their full statement here.

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