Seattle Pacific University in Governance Turmoil as Trustees Resign and a Group of Students, Faculty, and Staff File Lawsuit to Unseat 6 Other Trustees

Accusations of denominational meddling and the continuation of anti-LGBTQ hiring and personnel policies have led students and staff to sue members of the Seattle Pacific University board of trustees.

Concerns about racial disparities, declining enrollments and giving also motivated the suit filed in Washington state court last month.

The plaintiffs claim six trustees have protected the institution’s ban on hiring persons in same-sex relationships to comply with the values of the Free Methodist Church, a conservative denomination with historical — but not legal or fiduciary — ties to the university.

“The FMC is a denomination with a small domestic constituency and is openly hostile to the LGBTQ community. The FMC provides little to no direct financial support to the university. The FMC does not own the university,” the plaintiffs state. The defendants “are powerful men who use their positions, as trustees of Seattle Pacific University, to advance the interests of a religious denomination at the expense of the students, alumni, staff, and faculty of the university.”

The suit also accuses the defendants of creating a “rogue board” and in so doing an environment hostile to trustees open to inclusion and diversity.

The defendants’ campaign for control of the board preceded a May 22 vote to retain the existing hiring practices, which led to a protest by faculty and staff.

Those trustees “turned the board vote into a farce” which resulted “in the resignation of half of the board, including several Black trustees and other trustees of color” after the vote, the plaintiffs claim.

The suit also claims those controlling the university are motivated by race.

“As one queer, Black staff member told the (board of trustees) shortly before resigning from their position this year, the rogue board, in upholding homophobia, are also ‘upholding a system of whiteness,’” the defendants allege. “Indeed, all the Black trustees, including the chair of the (board), would have voted against the rogue board and, along with their allies on the board, would have ended SPU’s illegal, discriminatory employment policy.”

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Source: Baptist News Global