An actress who was fired from a production of The Color Purple over homophobic comments was not discriminated against because of her religious beliefs, ruled a London tribunal.
In 2019, Seyi Omooba was cast by Leicester’s Curve Theatre as the lead character of Celie, who falls in love with another woman, in the musical based on Alice Walker’s classic American novel.
Shortly after, Hamilton actor Aaron Lee Lambert circulated a screengrab of a homophobic 2014 Facebook post by the 26-year-old actress.
In it, she said she did “not believe you can be born gay” and that “I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal.”
The producers reacted by condemning the “deeply offensive” post and announcing that she would “no longer be involved” in the show. Omooba was also dropped by her agency, Global Artists.
Omooba is unrepentant in her views and claims she was not aware of the character’s sexuality when she accepted the role. She accused the producers and Global Artists of breach of contract and of discriminating against her because of her religious beliefs.
Backed by the Christian Legal Centre, Omooba sued both for a total of £128,000 through the Central London Employment Tribunal.
This week, the tribunal unanimously dismissed her case, reported the BBC. It ruled that she was justifiably fired due to the effect of the adverse publicity resulting from her social media post on “the good standing and commercial success” of the production.
The tribunal found that Chris Stafford, chief executive of Leicester Theatre Trust, did not fire Omooba with the intention of violating her rights and that “his purpose was to save the production.”
Notably, it also ruled that she was effectively to blame for the consequences of her post. “If there is damage to her reputation, it was not caused by being dropped from the production but by an unconnected person’s tweeting… of her Facebook post and the outcry resulting from that,” the tribunal said.
In a joint statement, Stafford and the show’s artistic director, Nikolai Foster, said they were pleased with the tribunal’s decision.
“Seyi Omooba accepted a lesbian part in our production of The Color 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,” they said.
They also accused Omooba of subjecting the theatre “to a carefully orchestrated campaign” to further her case that Christian beliefs are being censored in the theatre world when it comes to LGBT issues.