Judge tosses Christian school's attempt to block state investigation

A federal judge ruled Seattle Pacific University lacks standing to sue Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The judge indicated the school should have filed in state court.

A federal judge ruled Oct. 26 that Seattle Pacific University (SPU) could not sue Washington State Attorney General (AG) Bob Ferguson for religious discrimination, citing the school lacked legal standing.

The lawsuit came as an attempt to stop an AG investigation into the school’s Employee Lifestyle Expectation guide, which prohibits employees from diverging from Christian teaching on sexual morality.

“[The AG] is using the powers of his office (and even powers not granted to his office) to pressure and retaliate against Seattle Pacific University. But governmental attempts to probe the mind of a religious institution are a blatant form of entanglement barred by both Religion Clauses of the First Amendment,” the lawsuit read.

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The judge, however, ruled that SPU should have filed the case with a state court, instead. Campus Reform contacted the Washington school to ask if they plan on filing a lawsuit in state court.

SPU’s policy sparked protest from students on campus, which prompted the AG’s investigation. Launched in July, the investigation seeks to uncover if the hiring practice violates Washingtonians’ “civil rights.”

The investigation asked the university to provide records showing how the policy has impacted hiring decisions, including complaints and job descriptions.

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Seattle Pacific LGBTQ+ Protest, a student group rallying against the policy, celebrated the ruling and claimed it proved SPU is not “above the law.”

SPU students and faculty filed a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees in September, which the group claimed “conspired to uphold harmful and contested anti-LGBTQ policies” after voting to retain the expectations.

The lawsuit, Guillot et al. v. Whitehead, demands the trustees be removed from their positions and “additional relief that the court deems just and equitable.”

The group has raised approximately $70,000 to support “legal fees.” 

Every individual and organization mentioned above has been reached for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.