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Seattle Pacific University students plan to sue over LGBTQ exclusion

As of Friday morning, nearly $20,000 has been raised through GoFundMe to cover potential legal fees. The sit-in outside the president's office has been going on for more than 200 hours.

People participate in the third day of a sit-in at Seattle Pacific University, May 26, 2022, after the board of trustees decided to retain a policy that prohibits the hiring of LGBTQ people. Photo via Twitter/@SPUisGay

(RNS) — For nearly two weeks, students from Seattle Pacific University, a Christian school associated with the Free Methodist Church, have staged a sit-in to protest the board of trustees’ decision to uphold a policy prohibiting the hiring of LGBTQ people.

Now, more than 200 hours into the sit-in outside the president’s office, the students are giving the board of trustees an ultimatum: rescind the hiring policy by July 1, or else get sued.

As of Friday morning, the students have raised nearly $20,000 through GoFundMe to cover potential legal fees.

At issue is the school’s employee lifestyle expectation policy that bars the hiring of LGBTQ people. The board on May 23 voted to uphold the policy and in a statement said the university will “continue to reflect a traditional view on Biblical marriage and sexuality, as an expression of long-held church teaching and biblical interpretation.”

In the statement, Board Chair Cedric Davis said trustees made their decision, “which brings complex and heart-felt reactions,” in order for the university to “remain in communion” with the Free Methodist Church USA.

Students say the Free Methodist Church has no day-to-day “impact on campus culture” and have been protesting ever since the board made its decision to retain the employment policy.

In a statement on GoFundMe, students said they are moving forward with their litigation plans and are compiling evidence that “highlights the numerous ways the Board’s decision has harmed the school.” The trustees, they said, are failing to act in the school’s best interest.

“This is the only way we can try and have Board members in support of upholding discriminatory policies removed from their position without them resigning on their own,” they said. 

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

The funds raised will be donated to the university if trustees repeal the employment policy, according to the GoFundMe page.

In April 2021 the university’s faculty took a vote of no confidence in its board of trustees after members of the board declined to change the hiring policy. The no-confidence vote was approved by 72% of the faculty.

The Free Methodist Church formed in 1860 when it broke away from the larger Methodist Church over slavery. Free Methodists were abolitionists who also believed in women’s ordination. The denomination does not contribute financially to the school.

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