SPU policy against hiring staff in same-sex relationships sparks discrimination investigation by AG

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is investigating potential illegal discrimination by Seattle Pacific University administration over a school policy that restricts teachers in same-sex relationships from working at the university.

The AG’s office confirmed the investigation in a statement Friday morning. The statement follows the university’s lawsuit seeking to block the investigation.

SPU officials admitted that the school refuses to hire gay faculty and staff, according to Ferguson.

Ferguson said he received multiple complaints from SPU students, faculty and others.

He said his office sent SPU a letter asking four questions to gather more context on the situation.

Ferguson said SPU responded by filing a federal lawsuit.

The attorney general’s office provided a copy of the lawsuit in which SPU claims its own constitutional protections are being violated.

“The lawsuit demonstrates that the University believes it is above the law to such an extraordinary degree that it is shielded from answering basic questions from my office regarding the University’s compliance with state law. Seattle Pacific University’s attempt to obstruct our lawful investigation will not succeed,” Ferguson said in a news release.

SPU’s policy sparked an uproar among students, who began protesting against it in May.

KIRO 7 reached out to the university for comment and received a statement from Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket law firm. On its website, Becket is described as “a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths.”

“Seattle Pacific University is asking a federal court to stop Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson from interfering in the religious decisions of a Christian university seeking to remain true to its faith and mission. Mr. Ferguson recently singled out Seattle Pacific because of its Christian beliefs, demanding information about the school’s religious hiring practices and employees. For years, American courts have been clear that external officials cannot dictate how religious institutions live out their faith commitments. Our laws protect religious universities from unlawful demands by governmental officials,” the statement said.

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