Sep 12, 2022 - Economy

Faculty, students sue Christian college over LGBTQ hiring ban

Photo of a gate to the Seattle Pacific University campus

The Seattle Pacific University campus as seen on June 5, 2014, in Seattle. Photo: Mat Hayward via Getty Images

A group of Seattle Pacific University (SPU) faculty and students are suing the Christian college after its board of trustees refused to remove a policy barring people in same-sex relationships from working full-time jobs at SPU.

Why it matters: The lawsuit comes on the heels of similar litigation against religious schools across the country. SPU sued Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson this year after his office launched an investigation into complaints of the hiring practice.

What they're saying: "For many, education is the bridge to earning a livelihood in our society, but discrimination in education has historically placed — and continues to place — BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students and employees at an immense social, educational and economic disadvantage as compared to their peers," the lawsuit states.

  • "Adopting and implementing campus policies which treat LGBTQ+ identities as mere personal preferences that should be subdued, suppressed, or ignored while the sexual orientation and gender identity of heterosexual, cisgender individuals is openly expressed and celebrated, invalidates and dehumanizes an immutable and core aspect of a university’s LGBTQ+ students’ and employees’ lives."
  • The complaint also noted that the SPU campus community overwhelmingly "oppose[s] efforts to exclude LGBTQ+ people from community life."
  • "This case is about six men who act as if they, and the educational institution they are charged to protect, are above the law," the complaint says. "They must be held to account for their illegal and reckless conduct."
  • The plaintiffs are demanding that the defendants, which include SPU's interim president Pete Menjares, be removed from their positions. They're also requesting economic damages for anyone harmed by the policy.

Worth noting: The SPU case is not the only lawsuit accusing colleges of using religious freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ people, though decisions have varied in the court system.

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