Investigation into discrimination complaints at SPU to go on after judge dismisses lawsuit

An investigation into policies at Seattle Pacific University prohibiting employees from engaging in “same-sex sexual activity” will go forth after Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the school attempting to stop it.

SPU students and staff organized a sit-in and called for the removal of the university’s board of trustees in May after they voted to keep in place policies that prohibit employees from engaging in same-sex sexual activity.

In response to complaints from Washingtonians, Ferguson sent a letter to the university asking “four basic questions” about its policies.

The university then filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block Ferguson’s office from investigating its hiring practices, at which point Ferguson publicly confirmed that his office was investigating the school and a policy that required the school to refuse to hire LGBTQ staff.

Ferguson filed a motion in August to dismiss SPU’s lawsuit and asked the court to dismiss the university’s attempt to quash the investigations. SPU filed an amended complaint, which Ferguson moved to dismiss as well.

On Wednesday, a judge granted Ferguson’s motion, ruling that SPU was asking for a change in state law that can’t be granted by the federal court.

“My office respects the religious views of all Washingtonians and the constitutional rights afforded to religious institutions,” Ferguson said. “As a person of faith, I share that view. Seattle Pacific University, however, is not above the law. Instead of answering questions about its hiring process, the university filed a federal lawsuit arguing that it is above the law to such an extraordinary degree that my office cannot even send it a letter asking for information about its employment policies.”

“We remain committed to serving our students and campus community in a way that honors our Christian faith and mission,” said SPU interim president Pete Menjares. “The government should not interfere with our ability to operate out of our sincerely held religious beliefs. We are disappointed with today’s ruling, but the court did not decide whether the state can investigate our university’s internal affairs. We will continue to defend ourselves from unlawful interference with our Christian mission.”