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Oklahoma Christian University professor fired for asking a gay man to speak to his class (photos)

Oklahoma Christian University has fired a tenured professor of 41 years after he brought a gay speaker to address his class about overcoming struggles in life. 

Michael O'Keefe, who has taught at Oklahoma Christian University for 41 years, was fired last week for bringing a gay speaker to his class
Michael O’Keefe, who has taught at Oklahoma Christian University for 41 years, was fired last week for bringing a gay speaker to his class

Michael O’Keefe taught arts and design at the private facility in Oklahoma City, and led his students on a class entitled The Business of Branding Yourself.

One of the speakers at a session spoke about his personal journey as a Christian, and overcoming challenges in his life. The speaker happened to be gay.

He warned students that the start of the class that there would be explicit language used, and reportedly used the words ‘d**k’ and ‘bitch’.

After the class, an investigation was launched, and O’Keefe was fired for gross misconduct, infuriating many of his students. 

His wife, Lori Osley, announced his firing on Saturday, in a Facebook post that was greeted with astonishment and anger, and an outpouring of support for O’Keefe.

Lori Osley on Saturday wrote about her husband's firing from the Christian university
Lori Osley on Saturday wrote about her husband’s firing from the Christian university
Oklahoma Christian University has said O'Keefe was fired for the good of their students
Oklahoma Christian University has said O’Keefe was fired for the good of their students

‘Normally spring break is an exciting time for my husband, Michael Okeefe; but, this year it is different,’ she wrote.

‘After 41+ years at Oklahoma Christian University he was let go this past week. The reason?

‘Because he brought in a guest speaker, who was a former alum to visit with the students about how he overcame a personal challenge. He was one of several speakers brought in. However, he was gay.’

Osley said the speaker ‘only spoke about his personal journey, not to promote any type of lifestyle.’

O'Keefe and his lawyer are assessing what their next steps could be after his firing
O’Keefe and his lawyer are assessing what their next steps could be after his firing

She said her husband had ‘given his heart in soul to these kids at the school,’ and noted that students would come to his door crying, and he would try and support them.

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On his Facebook page, O’Keefe features two quotes.

The first states: ‘Social justice should be linked to our worship.’

The second, from Sir William Osler, who co-founded John Hopkins Hospital, states: ‘The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism.’

O’Keefe’s lawyer, Kevin Jacobs, confirmed to local news channel KFOR that O’Keefe was fired last week 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.’

Jacobs added: ‘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.’

O'Keefe is considering taking legal action against the university where he worked for four decades
O’Keefe is considering taking legal action against the university where he worked for four decades

O’Keefe and Jacobs are considering their next step

On social media, former students of O’Keefe reacted with anger to his dismissal.

‘As an alumni of Oklahoma Christian University’s graphic design department, I am shocked and saddened to know that Michael O’Keefe has been fired,’ wrote Julia Layne.  

She said that she understood that ‘two explicit words were used by the speaker’, and named them.

Layne concluded: ‘O’Keefe is the kind of professor who sets his students up for success in every way. I know for certain that I would not be where I am today without Michael O’Keefe. 

‘O’Keefe changed my life for the better, and it is my hope that this thread can, not only shred light on the facts of this situation, but more so, can memorialize Michael O’Keefe as the dedicated professor and mentor that he is.’

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Another former student added: ‘Michael O’Keefe saved me from a life of computer engineering. I remember visiting with him freshman year, so nervous to change my major. 

‘He believed in me before I did. These past four years O’Keefe exponentially grew my sense of design. 

‘I am embarrassed by my school’s decision.’ 

Another, Brandon, described him as ‘tough, but definitely one of the better professors’. 

Cameron Dawson, who runs a design studio, commented: ‘Michael brought his students to our agency each year and there is no question he’s extremely devoted to his students and to his craft. IMO this exposes very poor leadership.’

Another praised him as an ‘incredible professor and incredibly inspiring’, saying he ‘demanded excellence’.

Jodi Swanson thanked the former students and colleagues for their words, writing on Twitter: ‘He is my brother-in-law. This means so so much. Thank you for sharing.’ 

The university’s chief legal officer, Stephen Eck, confirmed that O’Keefe had been fired – and insisted it was for the ‘wellbeing of our students’.

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.’

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