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Christian actress sacked over Facebook post denies ‘misusing’ tribunal

by Press Association
Seyi.jpg - Banner image

A Christian actress sacked from her role as a lesbian character in a musical over an allegedly anti-gay Facebook post has denied “misusing” an employment tribunal to claim for money she has already been offered.

Seyi Omooba, 26, is bringing a case for around £128,000 against a theatre trust and her former agents for religious discrimination and breach of contract after being dropped as the lead character in a stage production of The Colour Purple in 2019.

The devoutly religious performer has been offered “unconditionally” £4,309, the full pay of her contract for the stage production by the Curve Theatre in Leicester, a virtual hearing of the Central London Employment Tribunal was told on Wednesday.

But she has so far refused to invoice for the sum and maintains she has suffered extensive career damage for espousing her religious beliefs.

The singer is seeking the £4,309 plus another £25,000 from the Leicester Theatre Trust for injury to feelings and reputational damage.

Ms Omooba is also claiming against her former agents Michael Garrett Associates Ltd (Global Artists) for £98,752 for loss of earnings, future losses, injury to feelings and reputational damage.

Tom Coghlin QC, for the theatre trust, said claiming for the £4,309 amounted to an “abuse of process”, saying: “The offer remains open, it’s still there but you’ve not engaged at all.

“Instead you’ve chosen to bring a breach of contract claim.

“It’s to misuse a tribunal procedure, isn’t it, to bring a claim for money that’s always been offered to you?”

Ms Omooba said: “No, because you, they, wanted to get away from the situation.

“In my mind, you just wanted to get away from it. You just wanted to give me money knowing full well they fired me based on my beliefs and they didn’t want to handle the situation.

“That’s why I didn’t give them an invoice.”

Ms Omooba was sacked from her role as Celie in the stage adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel over a 2014 Facebook post which read: “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.”

It caused a social media storm after being unearthed and tweeted by Hamilton actor Aaron Lee Lambert, who attacked Ms Omooba as a “hypocrite” for acting in The Colour Purple.

Ms Omooba is supported in her claim by campaigning group Christian Concern, co-founded by her father Ade Omooba.

The group said the case “will expose the mechanisms of censorship at the heart of the theatre industry”, adding that “any dissenting views against LGBT ideology, especially Christian beliefs, are currently incompatible with a theatrical career”.

Mr Coghlin suggested the damage to Ms Omooba’s career was “not to do with the termination of your contract” but was in fact due to “the views you expressed in your Facebook post … which affect people across the industry”.

It has emerged that Ms Omooba did not tell show producers about her “red line” that she would not play a gay character, but she had informed her agent about that stance.

Ms Omooba has also told the proceedings she had not read the full script for the production despite being cast as the lead character, adding she was never explicitly informed it would be a lesbian role and that was not her understanding of the part.

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 sexuality of Celie, who is often read as having a lesbian relationship, is ambiguous and open to interpretation, say representatives for Ms Omooba.

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