AL Dog Rescue Says He Received Storytime Threats From Drag Queen

A social media flyer for a precedent

A social media flyer for a previous “Drag Queen Story Time” at Hard Knocks Rescue and Training in Huntsville, Alabama.

Screenshot of Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, Inc on Facebook

The CEO of an animal shelter in Alabama says her organization strives to promote messages of love and acceptance, but recently faced hate speech and even death threats in response to an LGBTQ-centric event.

Lisa Maasen, who runs Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, an organization aimed at rehabilitating dogs from violent backgrounds, told McClatchy News that her Huntsville-based nonprofit received a threatening email on Thursday, October 13.

The email came after an “hour-long drag queen story” video hosted by the rescue was shared on social media by a user known to spread anti-LGBTQ ideology, she said.

“You are total (expletive) scumbags for hosting a drag show story hour for little kids,” the email read, according to a screenshot of Maasen posted to Facebook. “I seriously hope the next workplace shooting happens in your organization and suffocates everyone who approved of this.”

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

A Huntsville Police Department spokeswoman directed the 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 drag queen’s final hour of history was held on September 24.

Storytime includes Miss Majesty Divine, a local drag queen and middle school teacher, who reads children’s books to families and pets who gather for the event, Maasen said.

After the September 24 event, a video that combined footage from two separate story hours was shared on social media by Libs of TikTok – a group that shares news clips and videos, mostly about events. LGBTQ-centric, and promotes the view that they are not child friendly.

In a blog post, the group accused Miss Majesty Divine of making “lewd sexual innuendo” during story time.

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

Maasen said the drag queen story hour is meant to be a fun and inclusive activity that gives members of the LGBTQ community and anyone who feels they are not fully accepted by society a place. where to feel safe and welcome. She said Miss Majesty Divine did not make any inappropriate comments in front of children.

“Growing up in the 80s with a gay single dad, we were never allowed to talk about it, and it made life extremely difficult for us growing up,” Maasen said in a video posted to the Facebook page. its organization. “So for us to have somewhere to go and activities that we could have gone to as a family that also encompassed other things that we loved, would have been life changing.”

She said her organization’s operations are slowly returning to normal, but anyone who doesn’t feel safe entering the facility can schedule a Zoom meeting or home dog training session.

“We don’t back down and we don’t stop what we’re doing,” she 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.”

Community effects

The ordeal had a ripple effect on the entire community.

The Shoals Diversity Center, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Florence, about 75 miles west of Huntsville, canceled a ‘Drag Bingo & Show’ scheduled for Oct. 16 due to security concerns after threatening messages were received by Hard Knocks Rescue & Training, according to AL.com.

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

A spokesperson for Huntsville City Schools did not respond to a 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 “messages are circulating on social media implicating one of our teachers. We are working with district leaders to conduct a thorough review of the situation. »

Maasen said that despite the challenges, his organization plans to continue its mission to help find homes for dogs once considered “unadoptable” due to their backgrounds or behavioral issues, while fostering people’s acceptance. who also feel marginalized by society.

“We would rather be excluded for whom we include, than included for whom we exclude,” the organization said in an Oct. 14 statement on Facebook.

Madeleine List is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter. She has reported for the Cape Cod Times and the Providence Journal.