Photo: Facebook | Underground Presents performs at a fundraising event in Winterville in December.


A “Drag Brunch” and “Drag Dinner” event scheduled for June 5 at Hugger Mugger Brewing — benefiting the LGBTQ+ Resource Center in Sanford and health care assistance for members of the LGBTQ+ community — is facing public protest and calls to cancel from some local pastors.

Lindsey Knapp, owner of Sanford Yoga and Community Center in the Jonesboro Heights area and organizer of the drag events, said she and Hugger Mugger owner Tim Emmert were asked by Bruce MacInnes, pastor of Goldston Baptist Church and frequent columnist for The Sanford Herald, to cancel the event during a meeting MacInnes requested in May. Knapp and Emmert declined to cancel, and MacInnes followed up with a letter published a week later in The Herald saying the event “brings darkness into our city and taints our reputation as a place for wholesome entertainment and family friendly events.”

In an interview with The Rant, Knapp called the event anything but “dark.” 

“We’re doing this to support a community that benefits from the resources we can provide and allows a ‘safe space’ for those who need a place where they can just be themselves,” said Knapp, who is the mother of a transgendered teen. “If we’re promoting anything, it’s inclusion.” 

The “first annual” Drag Brunch will begin at noon on June 5 and will feature performers from Greenville-based Underground Presents, a traveling showcase of entertainers performing live music and burlesque shows while in drag. Demand for brunch tickets was high when the event was announced in April and quickly sold out, causing Knapp to schedule a Drag Dinner for later in the evening (starting at 4 p.m. that same day). Tickets are still available for the second show.

The LGBTQ+ Resource Center, based in Knapp’s yoga studio, was launched to provide resources and support for members of the community “to feel seen, heard and appreciated.” In addition to hosting regular social events, the center has begun a “Health Care Scholarship” fund to help pay for hormone therapy and other expenses often not covered by typical health insurance plans. 

Knapp opened Sanford Yoga in 2017 and has worked as an advocate for victims of sexual violence in the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg (she is also an Army veteran). She made headlines in late 2021 when she was placed on administrative leave, investigated for two years and ultimately fired after she raised questions about the military’s handling of a Delta Force soldier accused of rape. While at Fort Bragg, she also helped transgendered soldiers navigate the mililtary red tape after a 2021 executive order allowed them to serve openly. 

Hugger Mugger Brewing in Sanford

That experience helped educate and prepare her for when her own child came out recently. The resource center is her way of extending that help to others who don’t have that same support.

“She did an awesome job of explaining all of this — basic biology and the misunderstandings people have — to Mr. MacInnes,” said Tim Emmert, owner of Hugger Mugger Brewing, which hosts dozens of events and fundraisers organized by outside groups during a typical year. “Unfortunately, I felt like it fell on deaf ears.” 

MacInnes, who has not responded to a request from The Rant to comment for this story, has been a longtime vocal opponent of homosexuality and all things associated with LGBTQ+ lifestyles. In his letter to The Herald, he called Hugger Mugger a business that has been “generally known for hosting concerts and other community enriching events,” but questioned why Emmert (he did not name or address Knapp) would host a drag performance. 

“I shared with him that inviting drag queens into his business was wrong on three accounts,” MacInnes wrote. “First, it legitimizes the sin of sexual perversion, and the men coming to perform need psychological and spiritual help, not affirmation of their sinful choices. They need help to get out of their confusion, not encouragement to stay in it.”

He also said the events cause harm to Hugger Mugger by “promoting lewd behavior and charging people to come and see it.” Finally, he suggested Sanford is not “Sodom and Gomorrah,” two biblical cities destroyed by God for their wickedness.

But the letter isn’t his only verbal condemnation on the subject — two previous “Bible Speaks” columns in 2022 have broached the subject, and it’s been brought up regularly for at least the last 15 years. 

In February, in a column titled “The Sin of Sodom,” MacInnes suggested homosexuality was a bigger sin than murder and adultery. 

“Sodom was not destroyed because there were murderers, adulterers, liars and idolaters within. They can be found in every place men and women inhabit. It had to be something more to merit such a powerful and total judgment.”

Online flyer for the Drag Brunch

He went on to call it a “poison that infects whole populations and brings God’s judgment. … What was once kept in a closet for shame is now out loud and proud. Point out what the Bible says about it, and you run the risk of being hated, canceled or worse.”

In a January column, he mentioned transgenderism specifically: “The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that there were sins which, if not intentionally turned away from, would keep a soul from the eternal bliss of heaven. He mentions specifically, not exclusively, the sins of fornication, adultery, homosexuality and being effeminate (transgenderism) as being among those sins.”

In that same column, he criticized a Canadian law prohibiting conversion therapy — attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression — calling it the only hope those “caught up in these types of sin.”

Knapp said in the meeting with MacInnes, she referred to God as “all inclusive,” to which he responded, “God is not inclusive; he is exclusive.”

She told The Rant that language like this worries her, especially when it comes to a community of people who already battle depression and thoughts of suicide more than others. 

“Eighty-two percent of transgendered people have considered killing themsevles, and about 40 percent of them have attempted it,” Knapp said. “Those are horrifying statistics, and when people like Bruce MacInnes make these public declarations coming out against them and events like this, it only increases that risk. It’s very real and very documented, and as a parent, I want to ensure that my human lives.” 

Emmert said a different pastor in the community offered to pay Hugger Mugger the venue costs if he canceled the event (to cover business potential business losses). Again, Emmert declined. He said he’s received about seven or eight emails from people in the community asking him to reconsider hosting. 

“Their behavior is exclusionary,” he said. “Trying to reprogram somebody can be hurtful in a permanent way. With this attitude, there are people who look at you as a hate monger. They’re afraid of you. That’s the last thing you want in a community.” 

Emmert said he will hire security for the June 5 event.