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UK News

Christian actress loses discrimination case after being sacked over Facebook post disagreeing with homosexuality

A Christian actress has lost her legal case against a theatre who sacked her over a Facebook post she wrote about homosexuality four years before. 

A tribunal has found the theatre dropped her from the role because of the strong reaction and negative publicity to her views, and not because of the religious views themselves, adding that they feared for the play's success. 

Seyi Omooba was due to play Celie in The Colour Purple, who is sometimes depicted as a lesbian character. She was sacked in 2019 when it was discovered that she wrote on social media in 2014: "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."

The 26-year-old brought a case for around £128,000 against the Leicester Theatre Trust and her former agents Global Artists for their removal of her from the play. 

Her claims of discrimination, harassment and breach of contract have now been rejected by the Central London Employment Tribunal panel. In its judgment, the panel dismissed the suggestion that her sacking by the Leicester Theatre Trust and talent agency was due to discrimination against her religious beliefs.

The virtual hearing of the Central London Employment Tribunal heard that a "storm of adverse comment" followed on social media and theatre bosses became concerned at the "speed and savagery" of the reaction.

She was supported in the case by the Christian Legal Centre, which her father, Pastor Ade Omooba, founded. 

Director of Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Williams, told Premier that the judges and lawyers did not understand what she meant and that the judgment was "an attack on Jesus Christ". 

"It should really concern Christians everywhere, that someone who really does believe in marriage, and speaks of it and is vocal about it, can have their words played back against them, their position, twisted, as it was in court. The kind of stuff that we're hearing in the media, and even in the judgments, simply doesn't play out according to the truth, and according to what Seyi was seeking to communicate.

"It's actually an attack on Jesus Christ, who's King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It's an attack on his truth, it's an attack on his beautiful pattern for society." 

The Colour Purple tells the story of Celie, an impoverished and abused African-American woman in the US deep south in the 1930s. As the story progresses, she develops an intimate relationship with a female blues singer called Shug Avery.

The panel said the theatre's decision was made as a result of the backlash and the effect it would have on the play's success.

It said the dismissal was due to "the effect of the adverse publicity from (the post's) retweet, without modification or explanation, on the cohesion of the cast, the audience's reception, the reputation of the producers and 'the good standing and commercial success' of the production".

Ms Omooba had told her agents she would not play a gay role or do sexually explicit scenes, the tribunal had heard.

But the panel commented: "She had taken part in a similar production, she had the script, and knowing that a lesbian relationship was at least one interpretation, she should have considered much earlier whether a red line was to be crossed."

It concluded the trust wanted to "save the production" and did not "have the purpose of violating the claimant's dignity or creating an intimidating or humiliating environment for her". 

Ms Omooba's former agents Michael Garrett Associates Ltd (Global Artists) also made the decision to terminate her contract due to fears over damage to the businesses' reputation, the tribunal heard.

Her claims were dismissed as the publicity storm about her part in The Colour Purple threatened the agency's survival.

The tribunal panel also rejected her demands for compensation for loss of earnings, future losses and reputational damage as a result of her agency contract being terminated.

A statement from Curve Theatre said: "Seyi Omooba accepted a lesbian part in our production of The Colour Purple knowing full well she would refuse to play this iconic gay role as homosexual.

"We believe the case had no merit from the outset and should never have been brought to the tribunal."

Additional reporting from PA 

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