Christian groups in the Philippines have filed criminal complaints against a drag queen who performed a rock version of the Lord's Prayer while costumed as Jesus Christ.
The complaints filed with prosecutors accuse Pura Luka Vega, age 33, of "desecrating their religious faith and patron."
A viral video of a beardless Luka performing the verse in Filipino caused an uproar last month. Luka argued that their performance was artistic.
They have previously performed as Jesus, but their most recent performance gained attention when Luka posted a video of it on social media.
It infuriated the profoundly religious nation, where church leaders and legislators deemed the performance to be "blasphemous."
The Philippines for Jesus Movement, composed of Protestant church leaders, filed the first criminal complaint with the Manila Prosecutor's Office at the end of July. Article 201 of the country's penal code bans indecent publications, exhibitions, and performances.
Luka was charged with violating this provision. This week, a second complaint was filed by the Catholic organization Nazarene Brotherhood. Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will file a case.
Nearly 80% of the population of the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, identifies as Roman Catholic, according to the most recent poll conducted in February.
After the video went viral, many cities, including the capital Manila, declared Luka "persona non grata," a symbolic declaration that they were no longer welcome.
While this does not prevent Luka from entering these cities, it has caused them to lose employment, as clubs have canceled scheduled performances. Most drag queens, such as Luka, make a livelihood by performing in nightclubs.
Drag queens in the United States have primarily performed as comedians for decades, impersonating vocalists and actresses and delivering jokes in stand-up shows, often at the expense of the audience.
Luka is part of a new generation of drag queens who challenge the limits of free expression through their performances.
However, according to sources, Father Jerome Secillano, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, believes that reverence is an integral part of any statement of religion.
"I am aware that Pura Luka Vega stated that it was art... "What they did was an insult to our religion," he said. We consider the act itself to be objectionable, regardless of whether it is committed by a man, a woman, or a member of the LGBTQ community.
Luka apologized to those who were offended by the Jesus act, but defended their right to express their religious beliefs.
Dulcinea Zulueta, who works with Luka, said, "What people do not realize is that Luka grew up with a religious background and still practices their faith in their own way."
Ms. Zulueta claims that both of them have received death threats: "I was labeled a criminal accomplice simply because I supported Luka. Pastors have sent us messages stating that we are destined for damnation.
In the past, other Filipino artists have been criticized for performances or works of art deemed offensive to the Christian faith by some. A 2011 installation by the visual artist Mideo Cruz that featured crucifixes and phallic symbols attracted the ire of the Catholic church.