A British actress is alleging religious discrimination after she was fired by a theater company when an old Facebook post citing Bible verses became public.
Seyi Omooba, 26, was awarded the lead role of Celie in the production of The Color Purple at Leicester's Curve Theatre in 2019 when a Facebook post from 2014 became the source of controversy. In the post, she cited two Bible verses and argued the scriptural position “is clearly evident” in opposing homosexuality. “God loves everyone,” the post said.
Several people on Twitter and other social media platforms then called for her dismissal from the role. The theater eventually fired her.
Omooba sued the theater, claiming religious discrimination. Her case was heard by an employment tribunal Monday.
Omooba, a Christian, is being represented by the Christian Legal Centre. The legal group said in a statement that the case “will expose the mechanisms of censorship at the heart of the theatre industry” and how “any dissenting views against LGBT ideology, especially Christian beliefs, are currently incompatible with a theatrical career.” Omooba wears a “Not Ashamed” wristband in representation of her faith.
The theater claims Omooba eventually would have refused to play Celie because the production was portraying her as a lesbian. The Christian Legal Centre, though, says Omooba was comfortable playing Celie. The legal centre points to the 1985 film The Color Purple as evidence the character was not lesbian. The film was based on a 1982 book.
Whoopi Goldberg, who played Celie in the earlier film, said in 1985 the movie was “not really about feminism, or lesbianism, despite the fact that Celie finds out about love and tenderness from another woman. … It has nothing to do with lesbianism. It has to do with, her eyes are opened, now she understands.”
Steven Spielberg directed it.
“It's, with respect, absurd to suggest it's for an employee, an actor, to go and inquire with an employer whether or not they interpret this play differently from Steven Spielberg,” Omooba’s attorney, Pavel Stroilov, said Monday, according to the BBC.
Omooba previously starred in The Color Purple at Cadogan Hall. She also had a role in Little Shop of Horrors.
Omooba posted the comments on Facebook before her acting career had started, the Christian Legal Centre said.
The Facebook post read: “Some Christians have completely misconceived the issue of Homosexuality, they have begun to twist the word of God. It is clearly evident in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 what the Bible says on this matter. I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexual practice is right, though the law of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean it is right. I do believe that everyone sins and falls into temptation but it’s by the asking of forgiveness, repentance and the grace of God that we overcome and live how God ordained us to. Which is that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24.
“God loves everyone, just because He doesn’t agree with your decisions doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. Christians we need to step up and love but also tell the truth of God’s word. I am tired of lukewarm Christianity, be inspired to stand up for what you believe and the truth #our God is three in one #God (Father) #Jesus Christ (Son) #Holy Spirit.”
The Christian Legal Centre claims the theater called her after the Facebook post became public and told her that “only through retracting the comments and publicly apologising would she be able to continue under their management.” She refused.
The lawsuit claims religious discrimination and breach of contract.
Photo courtesy: ©Christian Concern
Video courtesy: ©Christian Concern
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.