By April L. Bogle
Citizens Defending Freedom-Nassau (CDF-Nassau) is asking Fernandina Beach cty commissioners to limit or rescind the permit for the June 10 Pride parade and festival, claiming the events violate city and state laws designed to protect children.
Jack Knocke, CDF-Nassau executive director, sent an email to members on April 27 requesting they contact commissioners and attend the May 2 commission meeting to voice their opinions.
“It is time that the citizens of Nassau County who support protecting our children, support the rule of law and support traditional Christian values speak up to stop the misuse of city assets to expose children to sexual material that are inappropriate,” Knocke wrote.
He also suggested message points, including “It is against the law – Rescind the permits for the pride parade and pride festival immediately because they are in the park violating City Ordinances and State Ordinances CS/HB 1423 restricting adult content and performances from public parks, churches and schools.”
The city ordinances Knocke cites haven’t been updated since 1995, according to City Attorney Tammi Bach, and the “state ordinance” protecting children from adult live entertainment is a bill pending in the Florida state legislature.
Bach said she would need to review recent case law to see if the city ordinances (Article III. Adult Entertainment, Sec. 14-53), which apply to adult entertainment businesses, also apply to public events.
The pending state legislation, sponsored by Sen. Clay Yarborough (R-District 4/Nassau County), originally targeted people who dress in drag. Called SB 1438 in its final draft, it now also includes an amendment that applies to any public entity that permits adult live performances where minors are admitted, making the person who receives the permit liable to a misdemeanor of the first degree and subject to a first offense fee of $5,000. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis soon, possibly by June 10.
If it does become law, “the bill is not a complete prohibition by any means on Pride or drag/male/female impersonation,” according to Jon Harris Maurer, senior policy director for Equality Florida, a civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community.
“Drag is not inherently inappropriate. Drag that is done in an age-appropriate manner is not adult live performance. You can have someone who puts on a princess outfit to read a fairy tale,” Maurer said.
SB 1438 never uses the words “drag” or “impersonation,” but Maurer believes drag is the intent of the bill. “The bill uses the term ‘lewd conduct,’ which isn’t defined, so there is ambiguity that leads to a chilling effect.”
Since the bill is not yet law, “it would make sense for a local government to not take any action,” Maurer said, adding, “Rights that we hold so fundamental shouldn’t be infringed upon because there hasn’t even been a law passed that calls the event into question.”
And if it does become law by June 10? Maurer says, “I think the Pride events could be done perfectly legally.”
Genece Minshew, president of Fernandina Beach Pride, said the real issue “isn’t about men dressing up in dresses. It’s about creating an ‘other’ that you can hate, so that you can push your agenda forward. It’s about power.”
Knocke has been vocal in his disapproval of the Pride events since late March, when he emailed city commissioners that he thinks they are “hugely inappropriate to expose our children in public places to.” That email turned into an above-the-fold front page story in the April 5 News Leader. Knocke then wrote an April 14 News Leader “Viewpoint” explaining his position on the matter. “We object to possibly harming young children and exposing them to harmful sexual content,” he wrote.
City and county residents responded with letters to the editor in the News Leader. As of April 28, there were 18 letters in support of Pride festivities and only one letter against them.
On April 14, the same day his “Viewpoint” appeared in the News Leader, Knocke emailed Mayor Bradley Bean, telling him he should “be informed and ready to respond – AND ready to VOTE PUBLICLY on whether Fernandina Beach will approve lewd, adult entertainment and sexual content to be promoted in OUR CITY PARK.” Knocke forwarded a reminder email a week later to Bean with the note, “Please acknowledge that you receive this and please give me a call to discuss.”
Public record requests show no responses from Bean, and the Observer was unable to confirm if Bean has spoken to Knocke about this issue.
In addition to citing city ordinances, Knocke’s April 14 email also questioned what will be “sold, promoted, discussed and given away that is of a sexual nature … discussion on condom promotion, STD/HIV tests, mental illness, women health for all genders, behavior disorders, and gender affirming services for children … presented on tables next to candy to entice children to approach.”
Minshew said this year, as in previous years, the Pride festival will include a host of local organizations, from the Nassau County Public Health Department to Rotary Club, as well as food vendors and local musicians. (A full list of participants is included at the end of this article.) In addition, State Representative Angela “Angie” Nixon (D-District 13/part of Duval County) will give a short address, and Faith-filled Friends, an interdenominational group of Christians, will offer communion and prayers.
“It’s a day of music, food and love for all ages. Everyone’s welcome,” Minshew said.
Knocke’s email also contained two images. One, a screen shot of a January 2020 social media post from “Hecate Queen of Witches,” a persona of Kingsland, Georgia resident Louis Vallejos.
“Hecate is Hades’ best friend who has been performing in the park and in our parades in Fernandina Beach – to children,” Knocke wrote in his email.
Vallejos says Hecate was a Greek goddess who helped people at the crossroads of their lives.
The post reads in part: “I am not a lightworker. I work my magick [sic] in the blackest of nights … There is no bright sunlight found where true healing grows. It’s dark and frightening. Courage and persistence are required … My witchcraft needs the darkness the way the stars need the night.”
Vallejos said he sees how the post could be taken out of context. “But people who have been oppressed or abused see real beauty in the darkness, as I did during my personal struggle through depression until I found the torchlight through Hecate,” he said.
The second image in Knocke’s April 14 email is a screen shot of a YouTube video called “Drag for Kids” showing children posing with men dressed in colorful gowns and wigs. Knocke doesn’t offer commentary about this image, but the Observer learned “Drag for Kids” is a program sponsored by the Lakeland, Florida-based Rose Dynasty Foundation, which provides “a safe and family friendly atmosphere for all people no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, and/or religion, through mentoring, fundraising, fostering community, and promoting awareness of resources,” according to its website.
On April 27, in addition to the call-to-action email sent to members, CDF-Nassau issued a press release stating that Knocke had received a death threat from a local citizen after being “maligned in the local press for opposing gay pride events hosted in spaces where children are likely to be present.” The citizen apologized and “acknowledged that the media stories … motivated him to send the death threat in the first place,” according to the press release.
“I’m not shocked to have received this threat,” Knocke says in the press release. “The way Citizens Defending Freedom has been treated by the local media here in Fernandina Beach is helping to radicalize people against us. They make us sound like ‘far-right’ lunatics. In reality, we simply do not want our children and grandchildren exposed to sexualization, inappropriate adult materials, and a drag queen performance in spaces designed for children.”
Minshew says there is no drag show or kid zone in this year’s Pride festival, nor was there last year. “People who were not actually in attendance continue to spread false and misleading information,” she said.
And this year, as in prior years, there will be some people dressed in drag. Vallejos (Hecate) is one of them. He has attended Fernandina Beach Pride events since 2019 and will again this year.
“They’re not going to stop me. I’ve found that the most important time for a queen to be there is times like now,” he said.
2023 Fernandina Beach Pride Festival Participants:
- Amelia Island History Museum
- Amelia Music Studio
- Big Brothers and Big Sisters
- Cats Angels
- Faith-filled Friends
- Florida’s First Coast YMCA
- Life Quest/Donate Life Florida
- Millennium Physicians Group
- Nassau County Public Health Department
- Nassau Medical Reserve Corp
- Starting Point Behavioral Services
- Rotary Club
- Take Stock in Children
- Beyond Horizons
- Hot Dog House
- Kona Ice
- New South
- Julie Delfs
- Brian Ernst
- Ray Hetchka, Honey Deacon, Amy Vickery
- Shawn Pfaffman
Knocke uses the rhetoric of “protecting liberty and children” to promote hate. Under the First Amendment everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. Children should be taught to celebrate diversity, not kept in a bubble where the boundaries are dictated by CDF. If a parent thinks the event is inappropriate, don’t attend. If a parent wants to raise their child to accept and be kind to all other cultures and lifestyles, they should not be denied the opportunity because CDF has decided to be the community’s moral police.
These views are extreme and do not represent the entire Republican Party views. This is hateful and anti LGBTQ.
I agree. I saw some of my church going, registered Republican friends at city hall yesterday standing in favor of Fernandina Pride. Their message is effectively polarizing potential recruits.
Knock is the bigot here. Peaceful assembly is a basic 1st amendment right. Here is Knocke’s website. Freedom is not his subjective opinion on what it should be. Draw your own conclusions. https://www.counties.citizensdefendingfreedom.com/fl-nassau/
They’re recruiting people who are against “cancel culture” while putting forth policy that cancels an already approved permit.
It would be helpful if more people from the Republican Party spoke out against Knocke’s (and others’) ignorant and hateful accusations. Otherwise, it easily appears that they agree with him. Staying silent means being complicit in the actions.
“Citizens Defending Freedom” is certainly a misnomer. More like “Freedom for me but not for thee.” Get a life and leave the rest of us alone.
I think Knocke needs to read the Constitution of the country that he lives in…what a hate filled notion this is.
This makes me want to attend the Pride parade for the first time!! I hope they have a booth where anyone can put on wigs and makeup and jewelry and get their picture taken. I hope the sky is filled with rainbows.
What are the Pirates going to do–they have been dressing for years!
Hardest ever at “Citizens Defending Freedom”. Call it what you want, but your words and misrepresentations give the game away. Here’s a thought about freedom: He has the freedom not to go & I have the freedom to attend.
Hardest eye roll ever at “Citizens Defending Freedom”
Your children are being influenced. The goals are to make being gay, bi, or transgender as normal as anything. Fluidity in sexual activity, is the result. Whereas 3% of people are gay, now studies show that students are stating that they are gay at the rate of 20%??? What is that about? Seems to reflect the peer pressure to be one of the cool kids; to be involved in the latest fad. So, in this regard, gay parades, drag shows, transsexuals, and other queer ideology is winning the culture war in America. Most folk don’t think twice about gays, but trying to influence their children and grandkids is a bridge too far.
Bob, I don’t think you read my commentary or the comments that follow. You cannot influence someone’s sexual identity or gender orientation. Your statistic on the percentage of people who do not fit a standard binary are off. Our society can tell all people it’s ok to be who you are instead of pushing them to deny it, leading to anxiety, depression and attempted suicide.
Being gay in the south isn’t cool. I have family that almost killed themselves because of their inner conflict with religion and their sexuality. You have no clue what your on about dude.
What is the source for these statistics?
Maybe children are finally being accepted for being who they are. The numbers increase because people are no longer forced to fit into societal norms. The same way we don’t ship teenage mothers away, force lobotomies and use shock therapy. It’s called progress.
Any policy, ideology or theology that demonizing (as opposed to normalizes) law abiding American citizens is discriminatively anti-American.
“We hold these truths to be *self evident* that all men are created equal and are endowed by *their* Creator certain *unalienable* rights that among these are *life* *liberty* and the *pursuit of happiness.*” This passage of the Declaration of Independence unequivocally neutralizes any argument you have that suggests “big gov’t” should infringe on the individual liberties of the Pride community.
Gays and Trans aren’t the ones who are winning the culture war in America. Freedom is winning the culture war in America. If you’re against freedom and self determination outlined in the Declaration of Independence maybe you should audit your ideology instead of the ideology of a historically marginalized community.
Iran is a good example of what happens when radicals regulate what people wear in the interest of morality. Women die. He’s hiding his hate and fear behind the red herring of protecting children. Mr. Knocke’s puritanical ideology is not based on Christian love, but rather on fear and hate. He doesn’t speak for all Christians. A man in a dress and heels is not a sexual act any more than is a woman in trousers and a tie. LGTBQ people are no threat to children and neither are a picnic and a parade. Dressing up in costume for a parade or holiday is as American as apple pie and no different than people in pirate costumes. The LGBTQ community seeks only to be free to be, free to love, free to seek happiness, and free to speak, What that community wants is the same fundamental American values we all treasure. If Mr. Knocke really wants to protect children, he should be advocating for common sense gun regulations that don’t abridge the 2nd amendment.
I beg to differ with you,according to John Hopkins,men that dress as women have intense sexual pleasure when dressed as the opposite sex. John Hopkins physciatric.
Johns Hopkins source, please?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daily_Wire. As per this neutral Wikipedia link the Daily Wire is a conservative publication with dubious credentials and track record and this post was from a few years ago when it was founded. Surely there is a more recent and more credible source ti cite if what you are saying is true
What an absolute knob. The exact wrong type of person and personality we as a small community need on the island. We pride ourselves on “southern hospitality” but people like this only over it to straight white people. Come and join us in 2023 Jack Knobe.
Also, why is he assuming there will be “sex acts that endanger the youth?”. People are running around doing sex acts to shrimp. Get a life!!
It’s interesting that Mr. Knicke’s group contains the word “freedom” in its title. Maybe they ought to rethink their name.
I’ve said it before and I say it again. The Lord teaches and instructs us to love the sinner, not the sin. Having a Pride parade seems to be celebrating the sin to me. I can’t support that. We should have compassion for those struggling with their identity. Hold a Compassion Parade and I will be there.
ah yes because all “the gays are broken!” Right? Compassion my ass. If you really cared for these people then you would let them live their life as they pleased rather than judge them as the holy one. Get a grip
Sir, the sin/sinner dichotomy is a false one. Plus, you assume being non-binary is a sin. The only time Jesus got really mad at sinners was with the money changers in the Temple.
Christianity also teaches us to, among other things, “love thy neighbor,” “judge not lest ye be judged,” “do unto others,” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Try to stop focusing on the “sins” of others and take a look at whether your failure to observe these teachings makes you a “sinner.”
Pirates are sinners of the most extreme type. I guarantee you a pirate has sinned more than a homosexual. We better ban all pirate themed festivities and rename FBHS with your logic.
As a dual citizen of a Native American Nation (and a follower of Christ) I would argue that is Christians who are struggling with their identity and until they get that figured out they have no merit to impose their religious laws on the state.
God commands Christians to not steal.
According to the 1980 Supreme Court decision Sioux Nation v. USA, the court upheld that America stole Black Hills and Rapid City from the Sioux and forced USA to pay the Sioux $2 billion dollars (where it still sits in the Treasury today). The government of this nation, that was allegedly “founded” on “Christian principles” cannot prove in a court of law today that it legally acquired all the land it currently occupies. Christians questioning their identity looks like the church staying silent about stolen land that they did not purchase or acquire via treaty.
The US Gov’t issued permits for churches to trespass into Native Land and kidnap out children where they sent to Christian boarding schools and were subsequently sexually abused and killed. God says don’t steal (which means don’t steal children)! God says confess your sun and ask forgiveness yet neither the church or the state has acknowledged or asked forgiveness for their sin of stealing.
God says don’t kill.
Christianity is responsible for the ethnic cleansing of 95% of native Americans from this land. According to article 2 of the UN Convention on Crime and Punishment of Genocide (signed by USA) this nation is guilty of 5 out of 5 acts of genocide pursuant to Article 2. We’re still looking for Christian identity and Christian credibility.
god says don’t lie.
article 6, clause 2 of the United States Constitution says “all treaties are the supreme law of the land and judges, and every state shall be bound thereby.” This Christian Nation signed 500 constitutionally protected treaties with Sovereign Indigenous Nations yet every single one of them are being broken *today* even though soldiers die on foreign soil, defending and protecting this constitutional clause.
and this only a few examples.
the historical record shreds any sort of credibility, merit or standing for Christian Nationalists to govern in the public square.
the fundamental, systemic sin of these Christian principles proves that before Christian’s start casting stones at those who they say are struggling with “identity” should take a long look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they are in fact living/governing in a way that’s consistent with gods commandments.
i respectfully wait for your reply.
Good read, accurate and truth.
“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”.
Knocke needs to just leave this community. Go somewhere where he is wanted and relates to “HIS” people. This person is filled with hate and is afraid of his own sexuality. Just pack up and leave, you won’t be missed.
There sure is a lot of hate, bigotry and flat out lies listed in the comments. I thought Jack just didn’t want kids being exposed to drag queens and their sexual antics. Maybe I missed something.
I’m not sure what sexual antics you or Mr. Knocke think the drag queens would be performing in public?
WHAT sexual acts are you referring to? I have attended the Pride Parade (2 years) and the Shrimp Fest Parade (12 years) and I have to say that I have seen more good-humored cross-dressing banter in the Shrimp Fest . . . where, by the way, we gladly celebrate pirates (thieves) and their gals (most likely from Old Town’s Ladies Street) — children are everywhere and they have not been harmed as far as I know. This tirade against drag queens is ridiculous . . . clowns in every American circus have been dressing in “drag” for centuries . . . no problem. God forbid we take the tykes to Ringling Brothers and they decide they want to change gender. Mr. Knocke is the really bad influence here — teaching intolerance and infringing on Fernandina’s freedom of assembly and right to celebrate. No laws are being broken and no lewd behavior has been noted in any of the past parades we have enjoyed. I especially hate that Knocke is brow-beating our Mayor, that email is threatening and disgusting in my opinion.
Never have I seen clown target children in a display of sexuality.
Concerned — Who are you? Have you ever seen any sexual activity or inappropriate behavior at a Fernandina Pride event? Have you even BEEN to a Fernandina Pride event? If not, please reserve your judgement . . . and who ARE you?
What are the Sexual antics of a drag queen?
If you care to explain?
Come out from under the rock.
I only asked you to explain yourself. If your reply to my request for information is for me to come out from under the rock, then i guess you don’t have any to offer.
April, this is such a well-researched and comprehensive article. I look forward to more of your columns. Great reporting!
Yep April, I’ll have another plate of that as soon as I get my head out of the sand.
I sincerely am so tired of opening The Observer with my coffee in hand and again seeing the name Knocke. Mr. Knocke, Please, Please, Please as your group’s name tries to convey…Feel Free to take Yourself and your so-called concerned citizens that are claiming to Defend Freedom and find a mountain in Utah where I’m sure there is “A Group” similar to yours that will welcome you all with open arms. Hopefully then we will again start to enjoy our sleepy little island with all of it’s character, diversity and beautiful loving people that attracted me to move here 14 years ago. And in closing…Mr. Knocke, I will be more than happy and willing to plan, spearhead, and pay for the parade to bid you all goodbye from Fernandina!!!
Wow for free speech!
Sad day, the culture war has arrived.
Bud Light is selling for .41 cents a can in some locations, In this economy? As a family fun destination that relies on tourist dollars.
I guess “traditional Christian values” are whatever Knocked and his ilk defines them to be. With that tautology he’ll live and die an ignorant person.
Your article on Knocke is mostly more fake news…with the headline being the biggest fake news of all! If you reported accurately, it would read “Knocke pushes to cancel Pride parade, festival ON CITY PROPERTY!
But if you actually reported accurately…then most of your readers wouldn’t be so wound up…well…maybe not. It would be better for everyone if you report accurate news…and it may help your career advance past this rag.
A distinction without a difference.
What are the fake news parts of this article?
Besides omitting in the title City property, which being a parade, where else would it be happening?
All that is reported is accurate. Did you read the news paper when this situation was first mentioned? Did you read the letter that Mr. Knocke sent to the paper later? Have you read the replies? Editorials, letters from concern citizens?
Do you not believe that Mr Knocke has emailed/ reached out to the mayor of the city? Or that he has called his group to show up tomorrow to push for this agenda.
How about Mr Knocke commenting that he has received a death threat, is that fake news as well?
Everything i read, i have read before and even more, i have spent countless hours talking to Mr Knocke directly, and everything represented here are the same things he had told me directly.
So i ask again, what are the fake news?
Why not instead of attacking the person who wrote it and the medium used to publish it, that you seem to also read, then, write a reply with your facts and opinions on the real issue, on the real news and educate all of us?
There is a window and an opportunity. You have the freedom to do it, so why not take the chance?
I for one, would like to read it.
If the dispute is about information sent to the City Commission, then I think it is clear that we are talking about City Property. All citizens have the right to access city property and the permit has already been granted. If you disagree with an author’s interpretation of the information, that doesn’t make it “fake news”. Maybe we can spend more time clarifying issues and interpretations from multiple viewpoints instead insulting those we don’t agree with?
Exactly, fake news has arrived. April,Jack,Mike and all other participants. This online bantering has led to one death threat. Not unlike the riots in Portland, Jan 6th in DC, both
events stoked by mainstream media. Our little town does not need to be divided just so
some out of town editor can brag about readership.This was a nice little read when the Girls
ran it. I never realized their were so many problems here in paradise,then Mike took over.
Perhaps you missed the City elections, where two candidates also received threats, due largely in part to the musings of a local blogger and fueled by the despicable candidate questionnaires put out by Knocke and the CDF? If you did, now you know. Also, maybe you’re unaware that there have never been children running the Observer. But it clearly gives insight into your view of women.
To quote the wisdom of Ru Paul “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”
Jeez … have we come to quoting the “wisdom” of Ru Paul? Half the articles and output of this media source seem obsessed with transsexuals and drag queens and it is beyond tiresome. This community is so much more than that. And I am always amazed at how the Observer allows people to offer input and comments with just first names, pseudonyms, or as anonymous. No self-respecting media source would allow such a thing.
Incidentally, I found the comparison of clowns with drag queens to be rather ridiculous.
My question(s): Why is the city allowing an outsider, Jack Knocke come in and drive all of the decisions and suck all of the air out of the room? Why are folks allowing this? Why are folks not thinking for themselves? Why is this guy suddenly the go-to decision maker for all things Fernandina? When did we stop thinking for ourselves and making decisions based on facts rather than what we are told to think and do?
Why do people – anywhere – allow hatred to infiltrate their communities? Mr. Knocke is not new. His predecessors had different names. History is littered with them and their followers.
This is something that definitely should be banned! I’ve seen it happen, a very few (not the majority), extremely sick individuals try to make a statement. It’s not pretty, and definitely not appropriate for youngsters, and spoils it for everyone.
That is not prejudice, it’s fact. Any group will have some fanatics that want to preach their own agenda. Doesn’t matter what the group, the few can spoil it for the many.
Pirates are some of the nastiest sinners on the planet. They kill, steal and do unimaginable things to our wives and children. They are without a doubt sinners of a more grave type than the homosexual, and they even wear skirts! Yet I see people glorifying pirate life. We should ban all pirate themed festivities and rename FBHS. Then perhaps we could have a conversation about Pride parades without looking like hypocritical bigots.
What a contradiction… a group which would create controls on First Amendment rights to “protect the children” but won’t fight with the same vigor for controls on Second Amendment rights to “protect the children”.
I am a child of God. I am a mother and a wife. I am a practicing R. Catholic. I am an immigrant. I am a citizen of the USA. I am a registered Republican. I live by the tenets of my faith to love my neighbor. My husband and I have attended and enjoyed all of the community’s parades. We also have attended the past two Gay Pride parades and plan to attend the next one on June 10th I saw nothing disturbing at these prior parades. The marchers said thank you for coming to us. All was peaceful and loving.
I send blessings and loving thoughts to all in our community regardless of your beliefs about gay and transgender people, who by the way also are children of God.
The American Taliban is rising up and becoming more vocal every day. I trust the majority of Americans are good decent people who believe in the principles that America was founded on and won’t let this happen.
[…] Defending Freedom-Nassau, said the events violate city and state laws designed to protect children, the Fernandina Observer reported, and want to limit or rescind the permit for the June 10 event at Central Park near […]
Knocke is a slow learner, why doesn’t he protect children from what really harms them (guns)? Yo Jack PLEASE take your idiocy and whatever “ Bible” your misinterpreting back to whatever town was happy to see you move away from…
Knocke promotes a closed society based on fear and his subjective view of just what “values” are appropriate to promote. Just what Fernandina and the rest of Amelia Island need… Think he best find another community to harass and “save from itself”.