The Los Angeles Dodgers are hosting Pride Night on June 16, but a controversy was sparked weeks ahead of the event because the organization invited -- then uninvited and then invited again -- the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The group is a nonprofit organization that has been fundraising and volunteering for the LGBTQ+ community for over 30 years. Members of the group dress as Catholic nuns, which doesn't sit well with all Catholic. Backlash to including the group at Dodgers Pride Night led to the team uninviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But then the Dodgers became the target of the backlash, which led to the Dodgers reversing the decision.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, invited by Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken, visited Angel Stadium on June 7 for the Angels' Pride Night and were greeted by protesters in the parking lot. As they prepare for Friday's event at Dodger Stadium, the organization is expecting more protestors.
Some MLB players have also expressed their opinion on the matter. Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams has spoken out against the group's nun costumes. In a recent interview, he pointed out the Dodgers' code of conduct, which prohibits wearing or saying "anything that goes against anybody's age, gender, creed, religion."
"At that point, this is going against their code of conduct," Williams said. "It's a blatant anti-Catholic message that they're sending, regardless of how much good they've been doing in their community."
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw also disagreed with the move to ultimately include the group. In response, he approached the organization to expedite the announcement of the relaunch of Christian Faith and Family Day -- an event that was part of the Dodgers' annual schedule before the COVD-19 pandemic.
"I think we were always going to do Christian Faith Day this year, but I think the timing of our announcement was sped up," Kershaw told the Los Angeles Times. "Picking a date and doing those different things was part of it as well. Yes, it was in response to the highlighting of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence [by the Dodgers]."
The pitcher noted that he has an issue with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence's depiction of the Catholic religion, not with the LGBTQ+ community.
"This has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community or Pride or anything like that," Kershaw said, according to the Associated Press. "This is simply a group that was making fun of a religion, that I don't agree with."
Excited to announce the relaunch of Christian Faith and Family Day at Dodger Stadium on July 30th. More details to come— but we are grateful for the opportunity to talk about Jesus and determined to make it bigger and better than it was before COVID. Hope to see you on July 30th! pic.twitter.com/yNu7HyEgR9— Clayton Kershaw (@ClaytonKersh22) May 26, 2023
Who are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?
The group is a self-described "order of queer and trans nuns" that started in 1979. According to their website, their mission is "community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment."
Their calling card is an imitation of Roman Catholic nuns, but with a twist -- their motto is "Go forth and sin some more."
"We use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit," reads the group's website.
Below is a recap of everything else that has happened related to the Pride Night controversy.
Mike Pence calls Dodgers' decision 'deeply offensive'
Former Vice President Mike Pence has spoken out about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence being re-invited by the Dodgers. On May 31, Pence said MLB should be respecting all religions.
"Having been raised in a Catholic family, the Dodgers' decision to invite the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a hateful group that blatantly mocks Catholicism, to their event next month is deeply offensive," read Pence's tweet. "Last summer the MLB moved their All-Star Game out of Georgia over a lie about voter ID and now they are apologizing and welcoming anti-Catholic bigots back to Dodger Stadium with open arms.
"The MLB should not be apologizing to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, they should be apologizing to Catholics across America. America's pastime should respect the faith of every American no matter what."
Dodgers announce Community Hero Award
On May 4, the Dodgers announced their guests for their 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night. They also announced that the Los Angeles chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence would be receiving the Community Hero Award "for their countless hours of community service, ministry, and outreach to those on the edges, in addition to promoting human rights and respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment."
Not everyone was happy with that decision.
"Recently, you stated that Major League Baseball needs to "make decisions that are as inclusive and welcoming to everyone as possible, and keep us as apolitical as possible." I write to ask whether your League wants to be "inclusive and welcoming" to Christians, and if so, why you are allowing an MLB team to honor a group that mocks Christians through diabolical parodies of our faith," Rubio wrote.
President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue also contacted MLB and said the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were promoting hate speech toward the Catholic community.
"In my letter, I said that if a group of white boys in black face—a modern day Al Jolson ensemble—were to be honored by an MLB team, there is little doubt that the event would be cancelled and sanctions would be forthcoming," Donohue wrote.
Dodgers rescind the invitation
The team released a statement on May 17 saying they Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will no longer be one of the guests for Pride Night because of the controversy.
"Given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the sisters' inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits that we have seen over the years of Pride Night, we are deciding to remove them from this year's group of honorees," read the Dodgers' statement in a since deleted tweet.
Soon after, Sister Roma, who self-describes as "The Most Photographed Nun In The World™," commented on the Dodgers decision to uninvited the group.
"So disappointing to see the @Dodgers cave to the conservative pseudo-Christian homophobes. This weaponizing of religion is exactly what the @LADragnuns and @SFSisters have been protesting for decades," read the tweet.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence also posted a statement on their website expressing the disappointment in the Dodgers choosing to "un-ally themselves."
LGBT groups withdraw from participating in Pride Night
After the organization announced this decision to uninvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, there was once again backlash towards the Dodgers.
"If they're not invited, I'm not going," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath on Twitter. "Celebrating Pride is about inclusion. Do Better."
The Los Angeles LGBT Center, the ACLU of Southern California and LA Pride -- a Dodgers' longtime LGBTQ+ community partner -- also announced they were no longer interested in participating after the MLB team's decision.
"As a result and in solidarity with our community, LA Pride will not be participating in this year's Dodgers event," read the statement by LA Pride. "Pride is a fight for equality and inclusion for the entire LGBTQ community and we're not going to stop now."
Mayor of Anaheim invites group to Angels Pride Night
When it looked like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were not going to be at Dodger Stadium in June, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken decided to invite them to the Angels' Pride Night on June 7.
"Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers decision," she wrote on social media on May 20.
Dodgers re-invite group
On May 22, the Dodgers announced they were re-inviting the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence after talks with the group and feedback from the community.
"In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work with our LGBTQ+ partners to better educate ourselves, find ways to strengthen the ties that bind and use our platform to support all of our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family," read the team's statement.