Christian actor sues for religious discrimination after firing from Broadway play

Actor Chad Kimball attends a special performance of “Memphis” on Broadway for Inspire Change at Shubert Theatre on February 3, 2011, in New York City. | Getty Images/Slaven Vlasic

A 2010 Tony Award nominee filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination following his firing from the Broadway show “Come From Away” after he voiced his objection to a state mandate prohibiting singing in worship settings and questions were raised about his beliefs.

Actor Chad Kimball, nominated for a Tony for his role in the Broadway show “Memphis,” filed a lawsuit late last month in New York state court against Kiss The Cod Broadway and its management company, Alchemy Production Group. He claims he was let go from the “Come From Away” production over his religious beliefs. 

Kimball had been a cast member of “Come From Away” since its origin in 2016. The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by The Christian Post, alleges that Kiss the Cod Broadway and Alchemy Production Group “unlawfully terminated Kimball wholly or partly because Kimball’s religious beliefs made them uncomfortable.” 

Kimball is seeking compensatory damages and lost wages. 

Kimball took to social media on Oct. 25 to voice his thoughts on the lawsuit.

“The Broadway musical ‘Come From Away’ is a story about a small town welcoming people from around the world on 9/11, regardless of creed, race or religion. However, as the complaint I have filed alleges, some associated with the show have lost sight of that message and have not shown me the same kindness,” Kimball argued in an Instagram post

“I hope those at the show who are not a party to this discrimination will understand that I cannot stand by and allow the violation of my protected civil rights go unchallenged: By God’s grace, Everyone of us has worth.”

In response to Kimball’s allegations, the producers of “Come From Away” issued a statement to The Christian Post calling his lawsuit “unfounded.” 

“Chad’s allegations are completely unfounded. This very show is built on the power of diversity and we celebrate every voice. We cannot comment further given HR privacy rules, and we wish Chad all the best in his future endeavors.”

Kimball told The New York Post that “Jesus never commanded us to not defend ourselves.”

“As Christians, we are commanded to seek out justice, truth and restoration,” he contends. “The law gives us opportunities to do all of those things.” 

The lawsuit argues that Kimball was terminated following a tweet he posted last November voicing his distaste for a COVID-19 mandate enacted by Gov. Jay Inslee in his home state of Washington.

The mandate limited religious services and prohibited singing in worship settings in Washington. 

“Respectfully, I will never allow a Governor, or anyone, to stop me from SINGING, let alone sing in worship to my God,” Kimball wrote in the November tweet. “Folks, absolute POWER corrupts ABSOLUTELY. This is not about safety. It’s about POWER. I will respectfully disobey these unlawful orders.” 

The actor’s lawsuit, filed by attorney Lawrence Spasojevich of the firm Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, claims that Kimball was terminated after questions were raised by staff and crew about Kimball’s “conservative Christian” beliefs.

In a phone call on Jan. 18, Producer Susan Frost allegedly expressed concern that the conservative Christian movement was somehow connected to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol but expressed a desire for reconciliation. But on Jan. 22, Kimball was informed that he was terminated from the show.

Kimball told The New York Post that he felt the Washington state worship restrictions were taking “a part of myself from me.”

“It is not easy for me to not sing,” he said. “I am commanded to sing. I want to sing. It is my faith.”

Spasojevich told the newspaper that “that decisions made by the defendants were discriminatory” and “based on Chad’s religion.”

The lawsuit states that Kimball is a “devout Christian.” After suffering an injury while serving his role in “Memphis,” the lawsuit says that Kimball credits his recovery to God. Since then, he has been more outspoken about his beliefs. In October 2016, Kimball was cast in the role of Kevin T. for “Come From Away.” 

The New York Post notes that Kimball attended the Boston Conservatory before traveling to Manhattan to pursue a theatre career. He said Broadway and the Church tend to clash and that “Christians can sometimes be looked down upon in the theater world.”

Kimball’s November tweet was shared by many online, and it had become viral with many negative reactions. 

“It was obvious that a large swath of people thought I was anti-mask, anti-social distancing and anti-safety,” said Kimball to The Post, adding that he had no problem with wearing masks or limiting the number of congregants. 

“I just wanted to be able to sing in church while wearing a mask and being socially distanced.”

In an attempt to explain himself to the Twitter crowd, Kimball sent another tweet to offer clarification.

“To be clear: Nobody is going maskless,” he had written. “The overreach — in my opinion! — is not being able to sing even WITH a mask ON. Everyone will continue wearing masks. With respect and with hope and with care.”

Despite his follow-up Tweet, the minds of many Twitter users were not changed. And Kimball said he was “confused” why so many people were “vitriolic in their responses.”

Following heated tensions on Twitter, Kimball reportedly reached out to Producer Frost through email. 

“I told Sue that I tweeted something that caused controversy,” Kimball said. 

“I thought it was an opportunity for [Frost] to say that my place in the show is important and that they would defend me,” Kimball said. “I started to wonder if I was in jeopardy.”

The court document further outlines a discussion between Kimball and the show’s director, Christopher Ashley, in February. Kimball asked if the termination was due to the feeling among the cast or because of his religious beliefs. Ashley reportedly told Kimball that it was “everything.”

The lawsuit contends that as a result of the termination, Kimball suffered “economic and professional harm” in addition to “emotional trauma,” “depression” and “illness.”

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