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SPU is fighting back against an investigation into anti-LGBTQ+ policies. Photo: Seattle Pacific University.

Seattle Pacific University fights back at attorney general’s investigation

SPU is suing the Washington Attorney General for investigating its anti-LGBTQ hiring practices and defending its right to hire Christian faculty and staff.

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Seattle Pacific University is under investigation for homophobic policies. In May, for nearly two weeks, students from the University “staged a sit-in to protest the board of trustees’ decision to uphold a policy prohibiting the hiring of LGBTQ people,” states Religion News Service

Students from the Christian university issued an ultimatum to revoke the hiring policy by July 1st. The students protested by participating in more than 200 hours of sit-ins outside the president’s office, but changes were not made. As a result, students created a GoFundMe to cover the legal fees to sue the Christian institution. The students’ goal is to raise $150,000 and as of today they have raised $50,000 to cover the legal fees for breach of fiduciary duty. 

Many groups within Seattle Pacific University have taken every measure to keep the board accountable for their decision to uphold policy. As a result, “the university says its rights are being violated by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office launched an investigation into the school’s hiring practices,” as reported by Christian Today

According to the claim filed Wednesday, July 27, Seattle Pacific University is claiming “the attorney general is wielding state power to interfere with religious beliefs of a religious university, and a church, whose beliefs he disagrees with.” The claim further states Bob Ferguson is using his office power “to pressure and retaliate against Seattle Pacific University.” 

Those involved in fighting against the hiring policy said according to Christian Today in a statement “the university is still painting a portrait of a school that is being persecuted by outside forces for practicing their faith.” 

However, this controversy began in January 2021, after an adjunct nursing professor filed a lawsuit “accusing the university of refusing him job opportunities because of his sexual orientation. Four months later, the university’s faculty in April 2021 took a vote of no confidence in its board of trustees after members of the board declined to change the hiring policy,” reports Christian Today

The issue stems from the school’s employee lifestyle expectation policy that states “employees are expected to refrain from sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University’s understanding of Biblical standards, including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, and same-sex sexual activity,” emphasizes Christian Today

Students continued to stage sit-in and protests around campus. Inside Higher Ed reports “Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Law, which is representing SPU in its suit against Ferguson, said in a statement that ‘the state is going after a 130 year old Christian university and violating our country’s long-standing principle of the separation of church and state.” 

This prompted Bob Ferguson to fire back with a statement on Friday morning. 

“Seattle Pacific University admits that it refuses to hire gay faculty and staff. In May, Seattle Pacific University students and staff staged a sit-in and called for the removal of the University’s board of trustees after they voted to keep in place school policies that prohibit employees from engaging in ‘same-sex sexual activity.’ Numerous Seattle Pacific University students, faculty, and others reached out to my office to file complaints or otherwise express deep concern that the University administration’s policies illegally violate Washingtonians’ civil rights,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson feels it is the attorney general’s office duty to protect the civil rights and uphold law prohibiting discrimination on basis of sexuality. 

Stay tuned to AL DIA for further updates on this news.
 

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