Alejandra Molina of Religion News writes that members of Seattle Pacific University’s (SPU) trustees have asked Washington state court to dismiss an LGBT discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit comes from school students and facilities over the SPU policy that blocks people in same-sex relationships from being hired.
Board members say forcing the school to change its policies would violate their religious beliefs and First Amendment protections of religious expression. SPU is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. The plaintiffs claim that the policy is destroying SPU’s reputation.
Seattle Pacific is a 130-year-old private Christian university associated with the Free Methodist Church, which teaches that “homosexual behavior cannot be seen as part of God’s intended role for human sexual expression, regardless of a person’s attraction, and which does not accept marriage between people of the same sex.”
The faculty and students sued the board in September in Washington’s superior court for continuing to uphold a policy that bars people in same-sex relationships from being hired to full-time positions at the school. The plaintiffs claim the policy threatens to harm SPU’s reputation and worsen an already shrinking enrollment. By possibly jeopardizing the school’s future, they argue, the board is breaching its fiduciary duty.
The board members said the lawsuit constitutes nothing more than an attempt to punish them for exercising their duties as trustees, which includes “assembling and speaking about institutional religious beliefs, policies, and church affiliations.”
They noted that three board members are volunteers “with clear statutory immunity.” The fourth, the school’s interim president, Pete Menjares, is a former volunteer “who accepted the call to lead SPU as interim president during a difficult season.”
“For their service, they are being targeted for litigation to punish them for the ‘wrong’ religious beliefs and to send a message to other potential volunteers: the wrong religious beliefs will get you sued,” they said in their filing.