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Employment tribunal hears case of Christian actress fired over 'homophobic' Facebook post

Employment tribunal hears case of Christian actress fired over 'homophobic' Facebook post

Actress Seyi Omooba | Christian Legal Centre

A Christian actress in the U.K. who was fired from a theater production over an allegedly homophobic Facebook post had her discrimination case heard before the Central London Employment Tribunal on Monday. 

Seyi Omooba filed a lawsuit with the employment tribunal seeking $174,618 (£128,000) against Curve Theatre in Leicester and her former agents for religious discrimination and breach of contract after she was fired from the leading role of Celie in a 2019 stage production of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," according to multiple reports.

The 26-year-old devout Christian actress was reportedly offered on an unconditional basis the full payment of her contract, the theater told the Central London Employment Tribunal in a virtual hearing. 

Thus far, Omooba has declined to accept the payment as she insists her career was damaged for merely espousing her religious beliefs. She has also denied the charge that she is misusing the employment tribunal. 

In addition to seeking another $34,105 (£25,000) from the theater, the young performer is suing Michael Garrett Associates for lost earnings, future losses, injury to feelings, and reputational damage. 

Omooba was fired from the play when it was discovered that years earlier, she had written opinions on Facebook that were critical of homosexuality.

A September 2014 Facebook post read, in part: “I do not believe you can be born gay and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal it doesn’t make it right.”

In the post, she noted that some Christians had started to twist Scripture and had "misconceived" the issue. 

A social media firestorm subsequently ensued, and Omooba was called a "hypocrite" for acting in the play, which is set in the 1930s deep south of the U.S., given that the role of Celie is seen by some as a lesbian character because in the course of the story she develops an intimate relationship with a blues singer named Shug Avery.  

Christian Concern, which is representing Omooba in the lawsuit, and is going forward with effort because they believe it “will expose the mechanisms of censorship at the heart of the theatre industry,” noted that, “any dissenting views against LGBT ideology, especially Christian beliefs, are currently incompatible with a theatrical career.”

Omooba's lawyers say she did not understand the character she was to portray to be a lesbian, that the interpretation of the character's sexuality is ambiguous, and that Omooba was never explicitly told that she would have to play a lesbian role. Omooba had previously told her agents that she refused to portray a homosexual character. 

"In the film the lesbian theme is not present at all, there is one kiss between the female characters which can be interpreted in all sorts of ways," said Pavel Stroilov, Omooba's representative. 

"It is in no way obvious and was never made clear to claimant that she was expected to play a lesbian character. She was never asked explicitly to play this character as a lesbian," he added. 

Tom Coghlin, who represents the Leicester Theatre Trust, said at the hearing that the role Omooba was supposed to play was one she would have refused to do and that the actress' stance was a "repudiatory breach of contract."

"Her choice was to resign or be dismissed and she chose to be dismissed," he said. 

"We say quite simply that the claimant took the role of Celie when she knew or should have realized there was at least a significant likelihood that she would refuse to play that role," he said.

Coghlin added: "She didn't check with the responders or director whether Celie would be interpreted in the usually understood way, which was as a gay character."

"The musical is not the film, they are different works with a common source, which is the novel."

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