The state of Washington is investigating Seattle Pacific University’s (SPU) controversial hiring practices, which are allegedly biased against the LGBTQ+ community.
In April, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed the university’s discriminatory employment policies, including banning “immoral” behavior not aligned with the institution’s stance on sexuality.
Those who refuse to adhere to the code face disciplinary action.
The announcement caused serious backlash, including a vote of no confidence from faculty and a pride flag protest organized by graduating seniors.
The Office of Attorney General Bob Ferguson confirmed Friday that a letter was sent to the university last June to gain more information about the controversial “employee lifestyle expectations” policy.
In the letter, state prosecutors said that they will look into any violation of state laws which protect faculty from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
The university’s general counsel had to respond to four written questions included in the letter, and address complaints against the policy dating back to 2017. However, SPU responded with a federal lawsuit arguing that they have acted within their rights as a religious university.
The institution claimed that it should not have to comply with the letter’s demands since it tackles “confidential religious matters” that are beyond the attorney general’s judgment.
“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,” Attorney Lori Windham, a senior counsel at Becket Law who represents SPU, said.
However, Ferguson quipped that the lawsuit shows that Seattle Pacific leaders believe themselves to be “above the law.”