A Christian actress has reignited the debate over religious freedoms after being removed from a lead role in a high-profile UK production over an anti-gay Facebook post.
The British actress, Oluwaseyi (Seyi) Omooba, who was fired from the Curve Theatre’s production of The Color Purple, is taking the theatre and her agency to court for wrongful termination, citing breach of contract and religious discrimination.
25-year-old Omooba was awarded the leading role of Celie in the UK production in March this year, which is based on Alice Walker’s classic American novel and to be staged in Birmingham and Leicester. Celie’s character is commonly read as having a queer/lesbian relationship.
However, Omooba was dropped by the Curve Theatre in Leicester and her former agents, Michael Garrett Associates, a day after her casting was announced after fellow actor Aaron Lee Lambert posted a screenshot to Twitter of a Facebook post Omooba had written in September 2014.
“Some Christians have completely misconceived the issue of homosexuality, they have begun to twist the word of God,” she wrote in the post.
“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.
“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.”
However, Omooba is adamant she is not homophobic despite telling the Daily Mail on Sunday that she still believes in what she wrote.
“I just quoted what the Bible says about homosexuality, the need for repentance, but ultimately God’s love for all humanity. I stand by what I wrote, but had I known that it would have come to this, I would have set my account to the privacy mode,” she said.
The London-born actress trained at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and quickly found parts in the West End and at the National Theatre after graduation
Omooba’s lawsuit alleges that producers of The Color Purple discriminated against her religious views by pressuring her to apologise, which she refused – as well as alleging that the public sacking has ruined her career.
She has since contacted six agents who were once eager to sign with her. Only one has responded, however, who described her as “talented but misguided”.
“If I’m unable to get back to the stage, then I feel there is no point. It’s the only thing I have ever wanted since I was a young girl,” Omooba told the Daily Mail.
The case mirrors that of disgraced former Wallabies star, Israel Folau and the controversy over whether Christian celebrities can publicly express discriminatory views based on the Bible.
Mr Folau, a staunch Christian, paraphrased a passage from the Bible to say in an Instagram post that “hell awaits” homosexuals unless they repent.
Rugby Australia responded by terminating Folau’s $5 million contract in May, prompting Folau to take the case to the Fair Work Commission over employer infringement on religious expression.
Since Folau’s high-profile sacking Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a Pentecostal Christian, has been fine-tuning religious discrimination laws with help from Attorney General Christian Porter.
Omooba is being represented in the case by the Christian Legal Centre whose chief executive, Andrea Williams told the Daily Mail that Omooba’s ‘punishment’ sends a “chilling message” to other high-profile Christians.
“This story sends a chilling message that if you express mainstream biblical views, you will be punished and lose your career if you do not immediately renounce your beliefs. This cannot go unchallenged and we are determined to fight for justice in this case,” said Williams.