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Theatre

The Color Purple actor fired for homophobia loses first round of ‘religious discrimination’ case

Emma Powys Maurice November 26, 2020
The Color Purple actress dropped from show for anti-gay post

Seyi Omooba was axed from an upcoming musical production of The Color Purple for an anti-gay Facebook post (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty)

The Color Purple actor Seyi Omooba has lost the first round of her discrimination case after the judge rejected so-called “evidence” from a right-wing Spectator critic.

Omooba was cast as Celie in a new stage adaptation of The Color Purple, a seminal LGBT+ play which tells the story of a sexual abuse survivor who regains her confidence after falling for another woman.

She was dropped from the show in March 2019 after it emerged she had written in a lengthy Facebook post: “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the laws of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean its [sic] right”.

As she sued her former talent agency and Leicester’s Curve Theatre for breach of contract and religious discrimination, Omooba’s lawyers attempted to argue that Lloyd Evans, a critic for the Spectator, should be allowed to give evidence on her behalf.

A judge blocked the critic’s “evidence” in a tribunal last week on the grounds that it was either biased or irrelevant, and the ruling was subsequently upheld in Omooba’s appeal.

Evans’ report, which expressed the view that “it is not of any importance” for an actor to agree with the feelings of the character they portray, was “full of opinion” and read like a “piece of journalism”, the judge said.

He also upheld an earlier ruling rejecting further evidence from Martin Parsons, a theology expert.

Responding to the judge’s decision, Omooba told The Times: “It is upsetting but we are determined to keep fighting for justice.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing Omooba, said: “Two experts in their field have now been silenced in this crucial case for Christian freedom. Are we really saying that Christians should not be actors?”

No one is saying that Christians should not be actors, but the suitability of an allegedly homophobic Christian for the lead role in an iconic queer play about the healing power of same-sex love certainly bears reflection.

The trial continues in February 2021.

More: Lloyd Evans, Seyi Omooba, Spectator, The Color Purple

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