Nigerian Actress Loses UK Legal Battle After Dismissal for Homophobic Language

Seyi Omooba, a Nigerian-born Christian actress who was fired from a stage production after a homophobic social media remark, has lost a five-year discrimination lawsuit.

The 29-year-old UK-based actress was set to play Celie, a lesbian character, in a 2019 stage version of The Color Purple.

Celie is in a sexual connection with Shug, another female character in the stage play.

She was, however, removed from the role after making a social media post declaring that homosexuality is a sin.

Aaron Lee Lambert, a fellow actor, retweeted Omooba’s 2014 post condemning the LGBT community.

The actress stated in the article that she “does not believe homosexuality is right” and that people are “not born gay”.

“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 doesn’t mean it’s right,” the post reads.

“I do believe that everyone sins and falls into temptation but it’s by the asking of forgiveness, repentance and the grace of God that we overcome and live how God ordained us to, which is that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.”

Lambert inquired if Omooba stood by her statement, citing her casting as “an LGBTQ character.”

The post sparked outrage, prompting her company to terminate connections with the actor.

Omooba filed an Employment Appeal Tribunal claim against Leicester Theatre Trust and Global Artists for religious discrimination and breach of contract. She also claimed that she was a victim of religious discrimination.

The actress informed the tribunal that she had read the novel in school and seen Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of the stage play, which starred Whoopi Goldberg.

When questioned at the tribunal, Omooba said that her understanding of Celie stemmed from reading the novel in school and acting in a concert version of the musical.

Omooba, on the other hand, lost before the tribunal because she admitted to not having read the screenplay before taking the starring role. The film actor claimed she was unaware the role was gay and would not have participated in the play if she had known.

The tribunal judges determined that her claims for discrimination, breach of contract, and harassment had little chance of success.

The panel ruled that she had “not done her homework or been paying attention, and that she still thought of the work in the frame of the Spielberg film”.

They ordered her to reimburse the fees of her previous agency and the Curve in Leicester, where she was scheduled to appear.

The actress challenged the tribunal’s findings, including the requirement that she pay more than £300,000 in legal fees.

The actress was raised in a devout Christian family of Nigerian descent. Her father, Ade Omooba, is a preacher and co-founder of Christian Concern, an evangelical organization that advocates for Christian rights.

Omooba challenged the tribunal’s decision to dismiss her case and order costs in a recent hearing.

The judge, Eady P, disagreed, stating that she was in “repudiatory breach of her express obligations”.

“[She] knew she would not play a lesbian character, but had not raised this with the theatre, or sought to inform herself as to the requirements of the role of Celie,” the judge went on to say.

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