An actress was fired from a British theater production after she expressed her Christian views about homosexuality. She is now suing her agent and the theater.
This story pits Christian anti-gay viewpoints (which I hate) against free speech rights (which I like). Where is the right balance?
Background of the case
In September 2014, actress Seyi Omooba wrote a Facebook post that expressed her conservative Christian views about homosexuality. Her father is a pastor who advocates gay conversion therapy (so you can see where she gets it from). She said, in part:
It is clearly evident in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 what the Bible says on this matter. 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 its right.
Fast forward to March, 2019, and she’s offered the role of Celie in “The Color Purple,” a character who has sex with another woman.
Another UK actor noticed the conflict between her conservative beliefs and those of her new role and tweeted:
Do you still stand by this post? Or are you happy to remain a hypocrite? Seeing as you’ve now been announced to be playing an LGBTQ character, I think you owe your LGBTQ peers an explanation. Immediately.
The tweet promptly generated a negative response, and Omooba’s agent asked her to retract her comments. She refused and was fired by the theater and dropped by her agent. She recently decided to sue them both.
The Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Omooba in the case, said,
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 that if you express mainstream biblical views, you will be punished and lose your career if you do not immediately renounce your beliefs. This cannot go unchallenged and we are determined to fight for justice in this case.
Is this a “mainstream biblical view”?
She’s just sharing what the Bible says. What’s wrong with that?
What’s wrong is that her views aren’t what the Bible says but one interpretation of what the Bible says. It’s like Westboro Baptist Church, the tiny band of troublemakers with the “God hates fags” signs. Westboro has Bible quotes to back up everything they say. The reason millions of mainstream Christians aren’t rallying to their banner is that, here again, this is just one viewpoint. The Bible says lots of contradictory stuff and can be interpreted to say just about anything you’d like.
The interpretation a Christian picks is a choice. Omooba can’t say that her hands are tied and the Bible says what it says, so don’t shoot the messenger. She’s picking a conservative interpretation over an interpretation that would be more palatable in the West in the twenty-first century.
I do acknowledge that she may not be as free to change views that have been indoctrinated in her by a Christian upbringing as if she were, say, picking from a menu. My point is that she can see that her views are in the minority and that other Christians have chosen different views but worship the same god. She has no grounds for thinking that her view of homosexuality is the only one.
(Note that this case was filed in the UK, so “free speech” is defined by UK laws.)
Omooba filed her lawsuit because “I want to make sure no other Christian has to go through something like this.” She says she’s fighting for the right to express her religious views.
But where’s the problem? She had and continues to have the right to express her religious views. What she’s unhappy about is that free speech can have consequences. She’s free to state her opinion, but then everyone else is free to object.
Omooba’s guarantee of free speech came from the government. The theater company presumably still had a contract with Omooba that allowed them to fire her for cause. Any theater company would be wary of a production that is controversial or might even be boycotted, and an anti-gay cloud is not what a theater would want for a show with a gay theme.
Part 2: the justification from her legal defense team + what the Bible actually says about homosexuality.
Then your religion is going to have to do
what every other organization on earth
that wants respect has to do:
stop being such a monumental, obnoxious
pain in the ass and earn it.
— seen on the internet
Image from Vlah Dumitru, CC license