A post on Twitter by comedian David Cross to promote his upcoming performance at the University of Utah has sparked an online backlash, including charges of religious bigotry, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Saturday post includes a photo that depicts Cross emerging from a dressing room in sacred temple garments, reported KSTU. The undergarments are worn daily by devout church members.
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The post prompted an immediate outcry, with more than 140 people posting replies on Twitter, many condemning the photo. Some called for the university to cancel the comic’s show, scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kingsbury Hall.
“This isn’t funny,” wrote one person. “There’s no room for religious bigotry here.”
“Yeah, temple garments are sacred, and yeah, this is offensive to most Mormons, but what’s offensive to me as a Mormon is how lazy this joke is,” wrote another.
“I hope the university sees what an offensive display this is and decides to defend the closely held beliefs of a large number of their students and alumni,” wrote one commenter.
“Religious bigotry is never funny,” wrote state Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Salt Lake City. “I’m appalled that the U of U would sponsor this type of hate and intolerance.”
Others, however, responded to the negative comments to defend Cross, mock Mormon beliefs or attack the church’s stances on various issues.
“When you learn to respect others someone might just respect you! It’s not a one way street!” read one comment.
“I’ll assume that you don’t understand that what certain people hold sacred is really really funny to the rest of us,” wrote another person.
The University of Utah also apologized for initially retweeting the post by Cross, reported The Salt Lake Tribune. The university removed its retweet, although the original post by Cross remains on Twitter.
On Sunday, university President Ruth Watkins condemned the photo while defending the comic’s free speech rights, reported The Deseret News.
“The use of the imagery was deeply offensive,” Watkins wrote in a prepared statement, according to the publication. “At the same time, the First Amendment protects such speech and the university cannot and will not censor content of those coming to campus.”
Cross, for his part, appeared to double down on the controversy with a follow-up Twitter post early Sunday that read, “Holy “moly”! My opening 10 minutes are going to be on fire!!!Read the replies for some underwear fun.”
Cross, a stand-up comedian, also has appeared in television shows including “Arrested Development” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” according to IMDB. He’s also performed voice acting for the TV series “Archer” and the “Kung Fu Panda” films.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the statement by University of Utah President Ruth Watkins.