Seyi Omooba, a 25-year-old London actress, fears that her professional career could be truncated after being fired for a post she wrote on her personal Facebook profile in 2014, in which she said she does not believe one “can be born gay”.
In March, Omooba was announced as the main character of the play “The Color Purple”, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, and taken to the cinema by Steven Spielberg in 1985.
The actress was going to play the main role of ‘Celie’, an African-American teenager abused by her father, who later becomes a slave.
Previously, the London artist, who is a daughter of an evangelical pastor, had performed at the National Theater and in the West End, with positive reviews from the specialised press, which described her as “jaw-droppingly good (…) with ferocious gospel vocals”, and capable of capturing “the very heart of her character”.
Old Message Appears On Twitter
Hours after the theater companies of Leicester Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome announced the final cast, a capture of a message written by Omooba in 2014 was posted on Twitter by another actor she hadn’t met before.
The post, written when she was 20 years old, said: “Some Christians have completely misconceived the issue of Homosexuality, they have begun to twist the word of God. It is clearly evident in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 what the Bible says on this matter”.
After quoting Genesis 2:24 which describes the plan of God for marriage, Omooba had added: “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexual practice is right, though the law of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean it is right. 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”.
She went on to add: “God loves everyone, just because He doesn’t agree with your decisions doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you”. She finished her post writing that she was “tired of lukewarm Christianity”, and encouraged believers to a “step up and love but also tell the truth of God’s word”.
After he remarks appeared on Twitter, the controversy went viral, leading to accusations of “homophobia” and “bigotry”, and calls to boycott the play. Some of her critics argued that the character she was going to play had sometimes been performed as a lesbian, and therefore, given the alleged “hypocrisy” of the actress, she “owed your LGBTQ peers an explanation”.
Omooba explained that she did not consider the character, set in the early twentieth century, to be an LGBT character, but even if she was, she would still stand to her biblical understanding of sexuality.
After a few days of silence, the theater company announced in a statement, that “following careful reflection” based on “significant and widely expressed concerns” by many, it had been decided that Seyi Omooba cease to be part of the play. Soon after, her artistic agent also broke up with the actress, claiming that her confidence had been “irretrievably eroded”.
“Blacklisted” For Her Beliefs
After the attacks on social media and the subsequent dismissal, Seyi Omooba tried to look for a job in other theater companies, but found herself with closed doors, and a feeling of having been put, in her own words, on a “blacklist”.
She told the Christian Legal Centre, the entity that represents her, that companies would not hire her, arguing that she should first come “to her senses on this matter” and get “away from the ideologies of your entire upbringing”, because “homophobia is illegal, not a matter of faith”.
Now Omooba has decided to take legal action against the Curve and Hippodrome for religious discrimination. The producers of “The Color Purple” have reacted by offering a financial settlement which included paying the salary of the role she was going to perform.
Omooba has declined the offer: “I am not in this for the money. For me it’s not about the money or my face – it was about telling and expressing Celie’s story, as I interpret it as a performer, because that is what I love to do”, she said.
“The people who know me, know that I have no hatred as a result of my faith; only love.Yet the theatre and the agency gave me the choice of either losing my career or renouncing my faith. I could not do this, not even to save the career that means so much to me”.
“I want our society to be more open to both sides of the debate and to accept that many Christians do not believe homosexual practice is right. Even though there are differences in belief, we need to be more loving to each other, we need to understand each other’s struggles”, and concluded: “No one should be treated as I have been because of expressing these beliefs”.
CLC: “Determined To Fight For Justice”
Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Center, said they will defend the young actress because “this is another in a string of cases involving Christians being hounded out of their careers because they love Jesus”.
“This story sends a chilling message to Christians, not only in the theatre profession but across our society, that if you express and hold mainstream Biblical views, you will be punished and will lose your career if you do not immediately renounce your beliefs”, Williams added.“This cannot go unchallenged and we are determined to fight for justice in this case”.
Date published: 06/10/2019
Feature image: Seyi Omooba
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