Seattle Pacific University (SPU) is suing state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, alleging that his investigation into possible hiring discrimination against LGBTQ+ people violates its constitutionally protected right to religious freedom, the Seattle Times reported.
“The attorney general is wielding state power to interfere with the religious beliefs of a religious university, and a church, whose beliefs he disagrees with,” according to the 22-page complaint.
The suit was filed Jul. 27 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
In a Jul. 29 statement, Ferguson responded that SPU’s 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.”
SPU – a private institution affiliated with the Free Methodist Church – has a long-running controversy over policies forbidding hiring of people in same-sex marriages and require faculty and staff to abide by a statement that sex be between a married man and woman.
The policies, highlighted by an adjunct nursing professor’s now-settled lawsuit alleging SPU denied him a promotion because he’s gay, led to a no confidence vote from faculty and protests.
Ferguson’s office had sent a letter in June to SPU after hearing complaints about its hiring and sexual conduct policies – said policies may violate the state’s anti-discrimination law, the letter said.