Beaumont theater professor sues for religious discrimination after refusing to attend gay event

Theater professor Linda Ozmun is suing Beaumont’s Lamar University for religious discrimination after she was reprimanded for refusing to attend an event by a gay performer.

Ozmun was in her fourth year of teaching on a tenure track in the school’s department of theater and dance, according to the lawsuit. In the fall of 2010, the department booked artist Tim Miller for a performance.

Calling Miller an “openly homosexual man who advocates for normalizing homosexuality,” Ozmun declined to attend based on her religious views because Miller uses “obscene language and sexual gestures” in his show about his “homosexual lifestyle.”

Miller, an internationally acclaimed performer is known for his humor. His work “explores the artistic, spiritual and political topography of his identity as a gay man,” according to his website.

A review from The New York Times is quoted on his website applauding him as a “charming and wildly energetic storyteller! Funny, forceful and full of vigorous gay pride!”

After complaints from the community, the show was canceled, but students created a “Coming Out Collective” show in response. Ozmun did not attend, stating her religious beliefs when she was later asked about her absence by department chair Judith Sebesta.

In her annual performance review in March 2011, Sebesta gave Ozmon an “unacceptable” rating because of her failure to attend the event. Ozmun filed a grievance with the university for the review, but it was ignored, the suit states.

Miller was later booked for a show in the fall of 2011. Ozmun requested permission to not attend because of her beliefs, but the dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication allegedly threatened her with disciplinary action if she did not attend.

After not attending the event, her lawsuit said she was “disciplined for her religious beliefs.” She no longer works at the university.

Ozmun is suing the university and Sebesta for religious discrimination. She is seeking lost wages, actual and punitive damages and to be reinstated with her negative record expunged.

A spokesman with the university declined to comment on the case because it is in litigation. He also was unsure if LGBT organizations were on campus.

The university has two LGBT organizations, Lamar Allies that the website states is for gay and straight students supporting gay rights and a support group called the LU Purple Rhino Project.

However, the two groups have no upcoming events posted on the student organization calendar, but the 24 religious groups on campus sure have a lot planned and advertised. So I’m guessing the campus of roughly 14,000 mostly share Ozmun’s religious views. And Beaumont is so well known for religious intolerance anyway.

Perhaps the theater department was simply trying to follow its mission stated on the website of trying to “encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, foster professionalism and artistic integrity, and embrace and cultivate diversity.”

Mission accomplished.

—  Dallasvoice