Seyi Omooba, the actor who was replaced in a production of The Color Purple following the emergence of historic anti-gay comments, is set to pursue legal action against the producers and her former agency for religious discrimination.
Omooba was originally cast as Celie in Leicester Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s production of the musical, however shortly after her involvement was announced in March, a 2014 Facebook post was highlighted on social media in which she claimed homosexuality was not right.
Celie is normally portrayed as having a gay relationship in the show.
Omooba’s post said: “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right. [Even] though the law of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”
The post was widely criticised, prompting Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome to later confirm that Omooba would no longer be performing in the show, which went on to tour in July.
Omooba is now being represented by the legal arm of Christian Concern, the organisation co-founded by her father, pastor Ade Omooba, and plans to pursue legal action against Curve, Birmingham Hippodrome and Global Artists.
Christian Legal Centre claimed the producers had offered to pay Omooba’s full wages to avert a lawsuit, but said she rejected the offer and is now seeking an employment tribunal ruling, arguing that “the theatre has acted unlawfully and discriminated against her because of her Christian beliefs”.
Christian Legal Centre is also claiming that Global removed her from its books amid the row without offering the two months’ notice to which it says she is entitled.
According to a statement, the first she has made since leaving the production, Omooba said she had received online abuse following the events earlier this year, and had been turned down for the theatre work she has applied for since.
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 – that is what my post in September 2014 was all about. No one should be treated as I have been because of expressing these beliefs.”
Omooba also described Celie as a complex character and said she did not believe she could be clearly defined as lesbian or a Christian.
The theatres confirmed they had received notification of legal action, and added that they stood by their decision about Omooba’s involvement with the show.
Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s statement announcing Omooba’s departure from the production said her comments had “caused significant and widely expressed concerns”.