Apr 3, 2012Print This Post
An assistant professor of theatre and dance at a Texas university is suing the school for religious discrimination — alleging that she was punished for refusing to attend a series of homosexual-themed theatrical productions.
Linda Ozmun is suing Lamar University for discrimination, creating a hostile work environment, retaliation and improper denial of promotions or advancement, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.
Ozmun, who is still employed by the university, was in her fourth year of a tenure-track when the incidents occurred. The Department of Theatre and Dance had scheduled a 2010 performance by Tim Miller, described in court papers as an “openly homosexual man who advocates for normalizing homosexuality and homosexual marriage.”
Miller’s one-man show is about “his homosexual lifestyle using obscene language and sexual gestures.”
Court papers indicate that the show was cancelled after complaints from the community. In response to the cancellation, several students organized a show billed as a “celebration of homosexuality.”
Ozmun said she declined to attend because of her religious beliefs and was later questioned by the head of her department.
In March 2011, she received her annual review and was given a grade of “unacceptable” for refusing to attend the celebration of homosexuality. She filed a grievance which was returned and noted “unheard.”
Russ Schultz, the dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, confirmed to Fox News that Ozmun was reprimanded.
“That is correct,” Schultz said. “We put a note in her file – a reprimand in her file.”
However, he said there was no actual disciplinary action taken.
“Her salary has not been altered in any way, her rank has not changed in any manner,” he said. “She has not suffered any monetary damages because of this.”
But she did receive a grade of “unacceptable” – an issue Schultz declined to discuss.
“I’m reluctant to answer that question,” he said.
But for a non-tenured faculty member on a tenure-track – it was an important issue.
In fall of 2011, Miller was invited to return to the university to perform his show “Glory Box.” He was also conducting a workshop with students to “help them find their inner voice.” Ozmun asked to be excused from what she called an “offensive performance” but the university refused.
She alleges in her lawsuit that not only was she told to attend, but she was also threatened with disciplinary action if she failed to attend. Ozmun stood her ground and did not attend and is alleging she was punished as a result of her religious beliefs.
Schultz disputes that notion and said all faculty members are expected to attend performances as a show of support for students. He said he really doesn’t see what all the concern is about.
“I sat through it (the show),” he said. “It didn’t particularly bother me. He talked about the political issue of homosexuals being allowed to either marry or have the same rights as non-homosexuals.”
He said there is a “level of inconsistency” to her complaints. He said at one point she refused to go to an AIDS benefit ‘because it was tied to homosexuality.”
“She attended one but did not attend the other,” he said.
He also disputed the notion that Miller’s original performance was cancelled due to a community uproar.
“There was no community uproar at all,” he said. “We had some difficulty in getting things scheduled, but he came back the next year.”
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