Seattle Pacific University Sues Ferguson Over Hiring Practices Investigation | Local

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Seattle Pacific University, a private Christian university associated with the Free Methodist Church, has filed a lawsuit against Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, claiming his investigation into the university’s hiring practices violates his free exercise of religion.

“SPU believes the attorney general’s office targeted the university because of its Christian beliefs and is asking federal court to ensure that it can maintain its religious identity,” according to a statement from the university.

The investigation was launched following student protests in May against the University’s employment policy, which states that “employees are expected to refrain from sexual behavior inconsistent with the University’s understanding of the standards biblical, including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, etc. – sexual sexual activity,” according to the SPU website.

On June 8, Assistant Attorney Daniel Jeon wrote to the University in response to complaints received by the Attorney General’s office.

“Many Seattle Pacific University students, faculty, and others have contacted my office to file complaints or express deep concern that the university administration’s policies unlawfully violate the civil rights of Washingtonians.” , Ferguson said in a statement.

The letter, obtained by The Center Square, says AG’s office was investigating whether or not the University’s employment practices discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or same-sex marriage.

Jeon asked the University to produce four things: any hiring and personnel policies relating to sexual orientation or same-sex marriage or partnership; a list of occasions when these policies have been used to prevent the hiring, promotion, firing, or discipline of University personnel; any policy complaints received by the University; and all job descriptions and eligibility requirements for University personnel.

The letter requested a response by July 8. The University did not respond.

On July 27, the University filed a lawsuit against Ferguson in federal court alleging, “The Attorney General is exercising state power to interfere with the religious beliefs of a religious university and church, including he does not agree with beliefs. He uses the powers of his office (and even powers not granted to his office) to pressure and retaliate against Seattle University of the Pacific.

The University also claims that the AG’s office overstepped its bounds by requesting sensitive documents relating to all matters related to hiring and employee discipline.

SPU seeks relief under the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, asking the court to declare that the University has the right to make decisions about faith and doctrine without governmental interference and to make decisions of employment based on these beliefs.

“The state is going after a 130-year-old Christian university and violating our country’s longstanding principle of separation of church and state,” said Lori Windham, senior attorney at Becket Law, which represents SPU, in a press release. “We will defend Seattle Pacific’s right to operate its school in accordance with its faith.”

“My office protects the civil rights of Washingtonians who have historically faced harmful discrimination. This is our job – we abide by Washington law prohibiting discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation,” Ferguson said, and “Seattle University of the Pacific’s attempt to obstruct our legal investigation will not succeed.


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