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Theater Teacher Who Refused to See Gay Shows Sues

Theater Teacher Who Refused to See Gay Shows Sues

 

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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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to uberculture.

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89 comments

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10:51AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

Cristopher F. mentioned, as an example, Birth of a Nation, that a film teacher should watch to be able to discuss the racist issues at hand. I agree, that if you're in a profession that some times, forces you to do things that clashes with your beliefs, you either do them, as assigned, or find other work. As for that above mentioned movie, I could only watch 15 minutes before I had to go puke! Good thing I'm not in the art profession!

11:33AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

The whole point here was whether or not she was being forced to do something against her religion.
Now if the University had told her to have a homosexual experience, that would be going against her conscience.
But it wanted her to DO HER JOB. And if your job is to teach theater, then you better teach it whether you like it or not. So what if the author or the director or the actors or subject matter has to do with homosexuality.
This would be like a literature teacher 86ing Oscar Wilde's work.
No, she has no lawsuit.
To those who think that NO ONE should do what they are disgusted by, try living in the real world.
We pay taxes for wars I don't support, I have to pay taxes to pay people I'd rather run over with my car, and I've had to work for industries I'd rather have burned.
When it got to much for me, I quit. It's not my place to force my employer to adjust to my beliefs unless I'm the one cutting him or her the paycheck for it..
Grow up - we all, at some time or another, are going to have to do some things in this world that disagree with us!

11:33AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

The whole point here was whether or not she was being forced to do something against her religion.
Now if the University had told her to have a homosexual experience, that would be going against her conscience.
But it wanted her to DO HER JOB. And if your job is to teach theater, then you better teach it whether you like it or not. So what if the author or the director or the actors or subject matter has to do with homosexuality.
This would be like a literature teacher 86ing Oscar Wilde's work.
No, she has no lawsuit.
To those who think that NO ONE should do what they are disgusted by, try living in the real world.
We pay taxes for wars I don't support, I have to pay taxes to pay people I'd rather run over with my car, and I've had to work for industries I'd rather have burned.
When it got to much for me, I quit. It's not my place to force my employer to adjust to my beliefs unless I'm the one cutting him or her the paycheck for it..
Grow up - we all, at some time or another, are going to have to do some things in this world that disagree with us!

9:27PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

I'm on side with the teacher in this. What's at stake here is her freedom of conscience -- that's a valuable and essential component for a human being, and increasingly it's come under threat.

Notice the institution isn't attempting to be tolerant or reasonable, or to accommodate her, or to disagree agreeably. Instead, it elected to punish her because she wouldn't toe a line.

This is wrong, and it needs to be fought and defeated.

2:11PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

respect freedom

1:48PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

A theater teacher that is not going to watch controversial plays is like a film teacher not watching "Birth of A Nation" because of the heavy racist message within it.

As a teacher, by not exposing themselves to performances that one finds objectionable because of the subject matter, that teacher is also limiting the creative outlets that they are teaching the students to limit themselves.

In the the medium of performance art/entertainment, such as theater and film, there is an inherent obligation to be exposed to, and teach that, controversial issues that are pertinent to current events.

11:50AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

This woman is in the wrong profession.

11:12AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

I think it's morally wrong to force someone to do ANYTHING that is offensive to them.

9:28AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

It's unfortunate you consider it a bad idea for anyone with more conservative values to be unfit for the theatre profession.

8:09AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

I don't think a person should be forced to attend any event that is abhorrent to them. We are all entitled to our personal views and feelings.
Having said that, if this is part of her JOB, then she has a responsibility to watch the show, and to be unbiased. If she cannot do that, she needs to find another profession.

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