Theater instructor alleges Lamar discriminated against her religious beliefs

David Yates Mar. 29, 2012, 6:41am

A theater and dance instructor is suing Lamar University, alleging the college discriminated against her after she failed to attend a performance embracing homosexuality.

Claiming that she was punished because of her religious beliefs, Linda Ozmun filed suit against Lamar and Judith Sebesta, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, on March 26 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the lawsuit, Ozmun is a faculty member of the theater department. In 2010, the department sought to bring in Tim Miller, an artist who advocates for homosexual marriage, to perform a show centered on homosexuality. However, his show was cancelled when the community complained.

In response to the cancellation, several students organized a show called "Coming Out Collective," which Ozmun refused to attend.

When Ozmun received her annual review in March 2011, Sebesta included her failure to attend the event as part of her evaluation and gave her a grade of "unacceptable," the suit states.

She filed a grievance, which was returned and noted "unheard," the suit states.

In the fall 2011 semester, Lamar brought Miller back to perform his show "Glory Box" and conduct a workshop. According to her suit, Ozmun asked to be excused from attending the show but was threatened with disciplinary action if she failed to attend.

"Because of her religious beliefs, plaintiff failed to attend the performance and as a result she was disciplined for her religious beliefs," the suit states. "Defendants have discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of her religious beliefs in violation of the Texas anti-discrimination laws."

Ozmun claims the incident has caused a hostile work environment and improper denial of promotions, according to the suit.

She alleges the defendants acted with malice, entitling her to exemplary damages.

Beaumont attorney Barry Bennett of Eddins & Bennett represents her.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, is assigned to the case.

Case No. B192-226

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