Correction: A typo in the original story has been fixed.

EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – A longtime Oklahoma Christian University professor was allegedly fired for bringing in a speaker who is openly gay.

“It was absolutely shocking to me,” said Emily Thornton, an OC alumnus.

Michael O’Keefe taught graphic design at OC for 41 years, until last Monday.

“[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 Thornton.

O’Keefe’s lawyer, Kevin Jacobs, is backing up these claims. The following was taken from a statement he sent KFOR.

“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,” Jacobs said. “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.”

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Oklahoma Christian University

KFOR asked Oklahoma Christian officials to respond to the claims O’Keefe was let go for “bringing in a guest speaker that happened to be gay.” OC’s Chief Legal Counsel, Stephen Eck said the following:

“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.”

STEPHEN ECK, OC LEGAL COUNSEL

This firing has 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.

The attorney’s full statement is as follows:

“Last Monday, March 7, 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”. Mr. O’Keefe has taught at
Oklahoma Christian with distinction for over 40 years and was a tenured faculty member of the
university.

It is our belief Mr. O’Keefe was terminated for having a guest speaker for his senior level class,
“The Business of Branding Yourself”. One of the topics addressed was the issue of overcoming
obstacles and developing resilience and character. One of the speakers was an Oklahoma
Christian alumnus and a Oklahoma Christian adjunct professor for nearly 20 years. This speaker
is also gay.

While this issue is polarizing within the religious community, it is certainly a reality within our
world and nothing to shy away from discussing within the context of an academic institution,
especially a one bold enough to call itself a Christian one. 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.

Rather than acting in such a hasty and careless manner like the university, my client will be
evaluating all the options he has to address this unjustified and wrongful action and then
choosing the course that respects not only his rights under the law, but the reputation he has
built with his many students, colleagues and friends.”

KEVIN JACOBS, ATTORNEY