The Ragtag Film Society will no longer accept sponsorship from The Crossing church, the society announced Friday evening.
The True/False Film Fest has received $35,000 in financial contributions from the church, while Ragtag Cinema has received $8,000, according to a Change.org petition that called for a boycott of the festival.
Keith Simon, the church’s co-pastor, delivered a sermon Sunday about gender dysphoria that was called hurtful and transphobic by Columbia’s LGTBQ community. In response, many community members and the MU Department of Theatre called for a boycott of the film festival unless it ended its partnership with the church and condemned the sermon. The petition had received over 1,000 signatures as of Friday evening.
As a result of the public backlash, the two organizations have officially parted ways after 10 years of partnership.
“We have always known that there are many places where the values of The Crossing and our organization diverge, but a recent sermon has crystallized an unbridgeable difference between us,” the society said in a statement. “The message, premised on the idea that trans and gender-nonconforming people are broken, has caused tremendous pain in our community. We do not believe that expression of authentic gender and sexual identities makes any person broken; it makes them whole and contributes to the richness of our community and lived experience.”
The society also said it embraces the voices and perspectives of LGBTQ citizens, artists and leaders in its programming.
MU’s Department of Theatre announced Friday in a statement that it would not continue its partnership with the film festival if The Crossing continued to sponsor it. The statement, which was signed by multiple department faculty members, also condemned the “hate speech delivered at The Crossing.”
“We support all of our students, faculty and staff in their education without bias or discrimination on the basis of race, class, gender, sex, ethnicity, ability, religious or non-religious affiliation, or any ways in which they present themselves in our classrooms or in our spaces,” the department said in the statement.
MU spokesperson Christian Basi said in a statement that MU would continue to work with the film festival and that it would be allowed to use university facilities in accordance with MU policies and procedures.
“The MU Department of Theatre was in error when its members issued a statement suggesting that they would not allow university facilities to be used by an outside group based on a viewpoint,” Basi said.
Elisa Glick, associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies at MU, also wrote a letter addressed to UM System President Mun Choi, MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Vice Chancellor NaTashua Davis regarding The Crossing’s sponsorship. In the letter, she asked MU’s leadership to not remain neutral on this issue.
“Unless we’re really having inclusion be a lived practice, it’s simply a platitude,” Glick said in an interview. “And I think this is a moment for all of us to join together and stand up against hate.”
Simon said he still holds a lot of respect for the film society and that The Crossing has enjoyed their partnership. The church respects the decision to part ways, he said.
“We have never had a problem having partnerships with people who have different beliefs than we do,” Simon said, “But we understand that in today’s world, that’s becoming more and more difficult.”
Missourian reporter Sarah Straughn contributed.
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.