A former theater teacher is suing Lamar University administrators for, she claims, punishing her because she would not attend performances about the “homosexual lifestyle.”
According to reports, Linda Ozmun is suing Lamar University and its Theatre and Dance Department Chairwoman Judith Sebesta in Jefferson County Court.
Ozmun alleges that in the fall of 2010 the department wanted to bring to campus “an ‘artist’ named Tim Miller” whom Ozmum describes in the complaint thus: “Mr. Miller is an openly homosexual man who advocates for normalizing sexuality and for homosexual marriage.”
Indeed, he does. Miller’s controversial yet highly acclaimed show Glory Box, which was touring at the time, is billed as “a funny, sexy and charged exploration of Tim Miller’s journeys through the challenge of love, gay marriage, and the struggle for immigration rights for gay Americans and their partners from other countries.”
Regardless, Ozmun continues that “his one-man show is about his homosexual lifestyle using obscene language and sexual gestures. As a result of complaints from the community, his visit along with his performance was canceled.”
However, in response to the cancellation several theater students apparently organized a show called the “Coming Out Collective.” They billed this as a “celebration of homosexuality” says the complaint.
“Because of her religious beliefs, plaintiff did not attend the show,” the complaint continues, alleging that after this, “Judith Sebesta, chair of the department questioned plaintiff as to why she failed to attend the event.”
Ozmun reiterated she didn’t attend because she believed it would have gone against her religious beliefs.
Ozmun claims that Sebesta then noted this failure to attend the performance in Ozmun’s annual review. She was also given a grade of “unacceptable.” It should be noted the suit does not say whether the reason for the “unacceptable” grade was solely down to this lack of attendance or if it was a result of wider issues — something that is of keen interest if Ozmun is claiming this as key to her religious discrimination complaint.
Nevertheless, Ozmun filed a grievance complaint over this but the complaint was returned “unheard.”
Subsequent to this, the university then decided to rebook Tim Miller. Ozmun claims that the college dean “threatened” her with disciplinary action if she failed to attend.
When in the 2011 semester the university did bring Tim Miller to Lamar (November 25–December 2 according to Miller’s blog), he was there to perform his show Lay of the Land and also teach a workshop.
Ozmun once again asked for a religious exemption to be excused from the performance. The complaint alleges that the dean “refused this simple accommodation and threatened plaintiff with disciplinary action if she failed to attend the performance.”
Ozmun, citing her religious beliefs, did not attend. She was subsequently disciplined, which the complaint says means in effect that she was disciplined for her religious beliefs in violation of Texas anti-discrimination laws.
Ozmun no longer teaches at the university and is seeking lost wages, actual damages, punitive damages and reinstatement with the negative evaluations expunged from her record.
The university has yet to comment on the suit.
The seriousness of the claims not withstanding, perhaps Linda Ozmun’s choice of profession as a theater and dance teacher wasn’t ideal if she didn’t want to have to deal with the “homosexual lifestyle.”
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