(RNS) – Students at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian school associated with the Free Methodist Church, have ended their month-long sit-in to protest the board’s decision to maintain a policy prohibiting the hiring of LGBTQ people. They are now planning legal action against the trustees.

“Council has chosen to deny our requests, which means we will pursue litigation. This is not a decision we make lightly, but it is one that we believe will protect the future of our university,” Seattle Pacific Student Associates said Friday, July 1, in a statement posted to Instagram.

Tracy Norlen, a spokesperson for Seattle Pacific University, told Religion News Service in an email Friday afternoon that there were no plans to change the “employee lifestyle expectations” of the college. university, which dissident students described as homophobic and discriminatory.

On Saturday afternoon, the group of students helped raise more than $35,000 through GoFundMe to cover legal costs.


RELATED: Are LGBTQ students in Christian schools discriminated against? A trial, scholarly studies say yes.


People demonstrate at Seattle Pacific University, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, after the board of trustees recently decided to retain a policy that prohibits the hiring of LGBTQ people. Video screenshot via Twitter/Jeanie Lindsay

Students participating in the sit-in, which began in late May, had given the board until July 1 to rescind the hiring policy. On Friday evening, when the sit-in ended, students hung paper hearts from the ceiling and walls of the building where the protest had taken place. There were 924 paper hearts in the “Heartfelt Reactions” display, representing hours spent protesting politics.

The posting is a nod to the board’s statement in late May noting that their decision to retain the policy, “which elicits complex and heartfelt reactions,” was made to keep the university “in communion with the Free Methodist Church in the United States.

At issue is the school’s Employee Lifestyle Expectations Policy which states, in part, that “employees are expected to refrain from sexual behavior inconsistent with the University’s understanding of biblical standards. , including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity and homosexual sexual activity. ”

On Friday, Seattle Pacific Student Associates posted a letter on Instagram from board chair Dean Kato to sit-in representatives.

“We recognize that there is disagreement among believers on the subject of sexuality and identity. But after careful and prayerful deliberation, we believe these longstanding employee expectations are consistent with the University’s mission and statement of faith which reflect a traditional view of biblical marriage and sexuality, as expression of the teaching of the long-standing Orthodox Church,” the letter read.

Seattle Pacific Student Associates, in the same Instagram post, said they “remain committed to moving forward knowing that God’s love is too great for small ideologies.”


RELATED: University of the Pacific Seattle faculty vote no-confidence in board for LGBTQ exclusion


In April 2021, the university’s faculty voted no confidence in its board of trustees after board members refused to change the hiring policy. The vote of no confidence was approved by 72% of the faculty. In the aftermath, an on-campus task force was tasked with exploring how the university could better address issues related to gender and sexual orientation, according to the Seattle Times.

The Seattle Pacific University campus in Seattle.  Photo by Matthew Rutledge/Creative Commons

The Seattle Pacific University campus in Seattle. Photo by Matthew Rutledge/Creative Commons

But before administrators could vote on the recommendations of the campus task force, the Free Methodist Church USA released a statement making it clear that the school would be out of fellowship with the church if it changed the hiring policy to include people living in same-sex marriages. .

Chloe Guillot, who graduated last month, told RNS in June that their lawsuit would be against the board, not the university.

“It’s not about the university being homophobic because at the end of the day the university is not. The university was retained by this board of directors,” Guillot said.



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