Religious groups protest Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence before Dodgers’ Pride Night

VIDEO | 01:43
Religious groups protest Dodgers’ Pride Night

Christian and Catholic groups protest at Dodger Stadium hours before the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are honored on Dodgers’ Pride Night.


The main entrance to Dodger Stadium was briefly shut down Friday afternoon by a crowd protesting the honoring of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a satirical performance and activist organization considered blasphemous by some Christians, as part of the team’s 10th annual Pride Night.

The Sisters organization — which describes itself as “a leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns” — received an award in recognition of its decades of community ministry ahead of Friday’s game against the San Francisco Giants. But beforehand, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside for a “prayerful procession” at Parking Lot 13.

Helicopters hovered above as demonstrators, most of them wearing red shirts, gathered in the parking lot, where a stage had been set up for speakers. Some demonstrators passed out rosaries and held up flags with religious imagery, illustrations of Jesus Christ and signs — including ones reading “Long Live Christ the King!” and “Shame on the Dodger’s organization.”


Whittier resident Don Robert Elante, 69, was nearly in tears as he listened to speakers. It was the first time the retired sales and marketing representative had taken part in a protest.

“I couldn’t stand by and watch my faith and the cross desecrated,” Elante said. “I felt like I had to be here.”

A crowd holds images of Jesus and crosses
A crowd gathers for a rally on Pride Night at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

About 30 feet away, East Los Angeles resident Corina Swetch, 31, held a sign that equated LGBTQ+ rights with criminality. She said she was angered “with all the mockery” by the Sisters and prayed for their conversion.

“It’s not too late to change,” she said.

As the demonstration continued, some in the crowd began to yell anti-LGBTQ+ slurs.

Although the protest was billed as nonpolitical, the crowd included a few people wearing hats emblazoned with former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, and some right-wing activists.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence say they have no problem with groups exercising their right to protest before Pride Night at Dodger Stadium.

June 15, 2023

Alex Villanueva, the former Los Angeles County sheriff, was also in attendance. Villanueva said he gave up tickets behind home plate for Thursday’s Dodgers’ game.


“I said, ‘Hey, thanks but no thanks,’” he said. “We’re going to stand on principle.”

Not far from the demonstrators, Jody Bender wore a rainbow band and held a sign that read “Love each other & beat the Giants.”

Bender said she came to support the LGBTQ+ community, which includes some of her friends and family members.

“There’s people in my life that I love so much, and I feel that it’s important to be an advocate and an ally,” she said. “We’re all a community and we all need to be rooting for one team and one common goal — which is beating the opponent.”

VIDEO | 05:31
Following the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to Dodgers Pride Night

Around 5 p.m., roughly 2,000 demonstrators marched along Stadium Way to Vin Scully Avenue, forcing police and security to close access to the stadium’s main entrance. Nearby, counterprotesters faced off with demonstrators. One man used a bullhorn to shame Catholic priests.

West Hollywood resident Mitch Landrenau was stunned to see the size of the crowd.

He agreed with the Dodgers’ choice to honor the Sisters and bought tickets to Pride Night in part because of that decision.


“The reason why the organization exists is to help LGBTQ youth that get thrown out of their house,” said Landrenau, 39. “They get beat up and this group helps them while also fundraising for charities and helping other disadvantaged people.”

The Dodgers faced backlash after they said they would no longer honor the satirical LGBTQ+ group. But they reversed course and reinvited the Sisters.

May 19, 2023

The demonstration came hours after Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez spent part of Friday’s afternoon Mass criticizing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

“Religious freedom and respect for the beliefs of others are hallmarks of the nation,” he said. “When God is insulted, when the beliefs of many of our neighbors are ridiculed, it diminishes all of us.”

Outside the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A., a lone protester used a bullhorn and fliers to alert people to the demonstration at the stadium. Another said he was disappointed that the archdiocese didn’t provide shuttles to the site.

Two drag nuns smile and clap
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a longtime charity organization made up of queer nuns in drag, receive the Community Hero Award in a pregame ceremony at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The Sisters were founded in San Francisco in 1979 by a trio of gay men who dressed in a modified version of a nun’s habit. The longtime charity organization has ministered to the LGBTQ+ community in the form of AIDS fundraisers, safe-sex pamphlets and condom distributions ever since.


Controversy erupted shortly after the Dodgers announced they were honoring the Sisters. The club rescinded its Community Hero Award after backlash from the right, then apologized and reinvited the organization following an outcry from LGBTQ+ groups.

It’s not the work of the nonprofit nuns, who claim they are “promulgating universal joy and expiating stigmatic guilt,” that has drawn the ire of religious groups and leaders, but their use of Christian tradition and imagery.

The San Francisco chapter of the Sisters hosted a “Hunky Jesus” and “Foxy Mary” competition this Easter, while other events have featured a pole-dancing Christ-like figure on a cross.

Some gay Catholics side with Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez over opposition to the Dodgers honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Pride Night.

June 15, 2023

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has said that the group “desecrates the Cross, profanes the Eucharist, and disrupts holy Mass” and “has caused disappointment, dismay, and pain in [the] Catholic community.”

The Michigan-based conservative media group Church Militant, which claims to “battle against sin, the devil and the demonic,” called the Sisters an anti-Catholic group that “blasphemously mocks God, the Crucifixion, Catholicism and nuns.”

People march outside Dodger Stadium
People march outside Dodger Stadium after a prayer service Friday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Friday’s protest was organized in part by Catholics for Catholics, a Phoenix-based 501(c)(4) organization that counts retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, as a senior adviser.

The group has called the Sisters “Godless” and “Christ-mocking” and is offended by their motto, “Go forth and sin some more,” which it says ridicules Christ’s command in the Bible, “Go, and sin no more.”

Catholics for Catholics was planning for “thousands to protest at Dodger Stadium.” The group, which did not respond to emailed requests for comment, posted online that it wanted a “peaceful procession” and asked participants to avoid bringing posters with “political images or messages.”

For the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, it’s about comforting those in need, Pride award or not. After the Dodgers tumult, the drag nuns reflect on their ministry.

May 25, 2023

Richard Zaldivar — founder of the Wall Las Memorias Project, a health and wellness organization serving Latinos and the LGBTQ+ community — said some of the Catholic leaders who have criticized the Sisters are part of a conservative sect of the church that has opposed Pope Francis on a number of issues.

“The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are being used as a target for homophobic attacks,” Zaldivar said. “The continued posturing drives our LGBT [Latino] members back into the closet by family members, which places them at risk for HIV, substance use issues, homelessness and suicide. We should not inflame an already toxic polarized community.”

Among those who spoke at Friday’s demonstration was conservative Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who has been rebuked by the Vatican for challenging the pope.


Anti-LGBTQ+ education protests in North Hollywood and Glendale this month have been tense, at times violent and, in the case of the latter, reportedly drew members of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys.

On June 5, Christian groups held a prayer vigil outside the state Capitol. During an LGBTQ+ Pride Month ceremony that afternoon, members of the Legislature honored one of the more popular drag nuns, Sister Roma, for promoting safe-sex education and trash cleanup.

Some Republicans walked off the legislative floors in protest.

In response to the Dodgers’ plan to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Catholic League launched an L.A. radio campaign urging a Pride Night boycott.

June 6, 2023

Julie Rubio, a professor and theologian of Christian social ethics at Santa Clara University, said the controversy around the Sisters is a continuation of the national culture wars over LGBTQ+ rights.

She likens the Sisters’ conflict to Florida’s battles over what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans all public school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in the state.

“You have people on the right asking, ‘Is there no line that can’t be crossed? Is nothing sacred?’” Rubio said. “On the left, however, there’s this question about, ‘Is there no understanding of parody, humor and complexity of speech?’”

Rubio said that common ground will be found only when each side stops looking at the other’s extreme views.


“Is it possible to see the Sisters for the work they do and realize this is not hate or bigotry?” she said. “Is it possible to see that religious view [that] this as desecration and perhaps a line can be established? It’s complicated.”

On Friday night, despite the heavy traffic and large demonstration, Dodgers fans began to trickle into the stadium. Among them were West Hollywood residents Steven Bryan, 71, and Michael King, 65.

“This is his birthday present,” Bryan said of King. “Also, we’re Dodger fans and we’re gay, and we love coming to Pride Night. Especially this year with the controversy with the Sisters, it’s important to show support.”

Friday night’s game was attended by 49,074 people, according to the website Baseball Reference, which tracks crowd sizes at MLB games. Previous Pride nights have boasted both larger and smaller crowds, with the worst turnout being in 2021 - during the COVID-19 pandemic - when only 20,220 fans attended. The Dodgers held their first Pride night on Sept. 27, 2013, against the Colorado Rockies, and an estimated 52,367 fans turned out. When the annual event was moved in 2015 to the official Pride month of June, 52,503 people attended.

Times staff writers Jaclyn Cosgrove and Austin Knoblauch contributed to this story.