Actress Seyi Omooba, who was sacked by the Curve Theatre in Leicester and the acting agency Michael Garrett Associates Ltd after homophobic comments she posted on Facebook emerged, has lost her religious discrimination case at the Central London Employment Tribunal. Humanists UK has welcomed the Tribunal’s decision that her dismissal was made upon the legitimate grounds that her comments had damaged the theatre’s reputation and business interests.
The actress claimed her removal as the lead character Celie in a production of The Color Purple, often interpreted as a lesbian character, and later by her agent, amounted to religious discrimination. She claimed her comments from 2014 that people are not born gay and homosexuality is morally wrong are part of her Christian beliefs. Her case was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the legal branch of the evangelical advocacy group Christian Concern, which was co-founded by her father.
The Tribunal dismissed these claims concluding ‘the effect of the adverse publicity from retweet [of her Facebook comments], 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… were the reasons why she was dismissed.’ In other words, it was the publicity of her views (which had nothing to do with the Theatre) that forced the Theatre to sack her, because by the time her views became well known, her continuing in the part would have irreparably damaged the production. The Tribunal further found that she should have reasonably been able to foresee the fact that Celie might be played as a lesbian character, and therefore it was her fault that the situation arose that she was cast as a character she was unwilling to play. It also dismissed claims of harassment and breach of contract.
Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the Tribunal’s decision in this case. Ms Omooba’s homophobic beliefs may arise from her religious convictions and she has the right to express those beliefs. But we live in a society where the overwhelming majority believe that LGBT people deserve equal treatment and respect and this is reflected in our equality laws. In an industry such as theatre which relies heavily on its reputation and that of its actors to bring cast members together, sell tickets, and write reviews, her public comments did pose a reputational and business risk to her employers and it was upon this basis that they took the legitimate and proportionate step of removing her from the production.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
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