AL dog rescue says it has received threats from drag queen story time

Social media bulletin for the previous Drag Queen Story Time at Hard Knocks Rescue and Training in Huntsville, Alabama.

Social media bulletin for the previous Drag Queen Story Time at Hard Knocks Rescue and Training in Huntsville, Alabama.

Screenshot from Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, Inc. on Facebook

The CEO of an Alabama animal rescue says her organization tries to promote messages of love and acceptance, but has faced hate speech and even death threats in response to a recent LGBTQ-centric event.

Lisa Maasen, who runs Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, an organization focused on rehabilitating dogs from abusive families, told McClatchy News that her Huntsville-based nonprofit received a threatening email on Oct. 13.

The email, he said, came after a video of the rescue’s “drag queen story time” was shared by a user known for spreading anti-LGBTQ ideology on social media.

“You are a complete (expletive) bastard to host a drag show storytime for little kids,” the email read, according to a screenshot Maasen posted on Facebook. “I seriously hope the next workplace shooting happens at your organization and silences anyone who approves of it.”

He said he feared for the safety of everyone in his organization and contacted the local police department and the FBI. Both agencies told him they would not investigate the email because they did not consider it a direct threat.

A spokeswoman for the Huntsville Police Department referred inquiries to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI did not respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

Huntsville is about 100 miles northeast of Birmingham.

Drag queen story time

Maasen said she received the email a few weeks after the last drag queen story time on Sept. 24.

Maasen said the families and pets who gather for the storytime event include Miss Majesty Divine, a local drag queen who reads children’s books, and Miss Majesty Divine, a high school teacher.

After the September 24 incident, a video combining footage from two separate story times was shared on social media by the Libs of TikTok — which mostly share news clips and videos about LGBTQ-centric events and aren’t kid-friendly.

In a blog post, the group accused Miss Her Majesty of making “indecent sexual innuendos” during the story.

A message sent by McClatchy News to Libs of TikTok on Facebook was not returned.

Maasen said drag queen story time is meant to be a fun and inclusive activity that gives members of the LGBTQ community and anyone who feels not fully accepted by society a place to feel safe and welcome. He said that Mrs. Elahi did not make any inappropriate comments in front of the children.

“Growing up in the 80s with a single father who was gay, we were never allowed to talk about it and it made it very difficult for us to grow up,” Maasen said in a video posted on his organization’s Facebook page. “So having a place to go and activities we could do as a family, as well as activities that included other things we liked, would be life-changing for me.”

He said his organization’s operations are slowly returning to normal, but anyone who doesn’t feel safe entering the facility can have a Zoom meeting or dog training at home.

“We’re not backing down or stopping what we’re doing,” he said. “We will operate as a dog rescue and training business that is inclusive and open to anyone who wants to be here and be kind to others.”

Effects on society

The trial had a ripple effect in society.

The Shoals Diversity Center, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Florence, about 75 miles west of Huntsville, canceled its scheduled Oct. 16 Drag Bingo & Show due to safety concerns after receiving threatening messages from Hard Knocks Rescue & Training. AL.com.

Maasen, Miss Majesty Divine, who is with James Miller and teaches at Mountain Gap Middle School, has been placed on paid leave by the Huntsville City School District.

A Huntsville City Schools spokeswoman did not respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment. Miller could not be reached for comment.

A letter obtained by WAAY31 from the principal of Mountain Gap Middle School states that “there are some posts on social media involving one of our teachers. We are working together with the district administration to thoroughly investigate the situation.”

Despite the challenges, Maasen said, her organization plans to continue its mission to help find homes for dogs that were once considered “unacceptable” because of their origins or behavioral problems, while also promoting adoption for those marginalized by society.

“We prefer to exclude for those we include rather than include for those we exclude,” the organization said in a statement on Facebook on October 14.

Madeleine List is a McClatchy National Real-Time Correspondent. He reported for the Cape Cod Times and the Providence Journal.

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