EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) — A longtime Oklahoma Christian University professor says he was fired for bringing in a speaker who is openly gay.
Michael O’Keefe taught graphic design at Oklahoma Christian for 41 years, until March 7.
“[Mr.] O’Keefe was fired because he had a class where several speakers came in and talked about their personal challenges and how they overcame them,” said Emily Thornton, who attended the university. “It was absolutely shocking to me.”
O’Keefe’s lawyer, Kevin Jacobs, sent a statement that reads in part:
“Michael O’Keefe was fired by Oklahoma Christian University allegedly for his ‘gross misconduct, conduct contrary to the mission and values of Oklahoma Christian University and disregard of the policies and values of the university. It is our belief Mr. O’Keefe was terminated for having a guest speaker for his senior level class… This speaker is also gay. Letting students expect a world where you may be different is the message Mr. O’Keefe wanted his students to hear. That’s the message this speaker delivered, not an advocacy of gay rights. Unfortunately, that’s not permitted at Oklahoma Christian University today. It cost Mr. O’Keefe his job.”
KFOR asked Oklahoma Christian University officials to respond to the claim O’Keefe was let go for “bringing in a guest speaker that happened to be gay.” The school’s chief legal counsel Stephen Eck said, “The decision to end employment was made after a thorough review process. The university will always put first the wellbeing of our students in every decision we make.”
The firing sparked up a social media frenzy, with many expressing their outrage.
Jacobs said he and O’Keefe are still going over their options and deciding how to move forward.