by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A Christian university in Seattle is suing the attorney general of Washington state, claiming that his office is interfering with the school’s First Amendment right to follow its religious beliefs and prohibiting staff from engaging in “same-sex marriage and activity,” Courthouse News reports.
Founded by the Free Methodist Church in 1891, Seattle Pacific University filed suit against Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Wednesday.
The case arose after students and staff at Seattle Pacific staged a protest in May, arguing that the school’s policy on same-sex relations among faculty members amounts to sexual orientation discrimination, Courthouse News reports. The protestors demanded the removal of the board of trustees, which had voted to keep the policy.
When the school refused to change its policy, a group of students contacted Attorney General Ferguson and asked him to take action against the university and the board, Courthouse News said. In response, Ferguson wrote to the school requesting the “prompt production of voluminous and sensitive internal information on the university’s religious policies and their application to any and all faculty, staff, and administrators,” the school’s lawsuit says.
The school took exception to Ferguson’s demand, explaining in the lawsuit that his letter “clearly indicates that the attorney general considers ‘prohibiting same-sex marriage and activity to be in violation of the law.” The school considers that the AG’s request for information amounts to a violation of the religious organization’s First Amendment right to “follow the teachings of their faith on marriage and sexual relationships outside marriage, and to maintain policies consistent with those beliefs,” the lawsuit explains.
In particular, the school attests, that the AG’s office is interfering with the university’s relationship with the Free Methodist Church. “If the university changed its employment policies to permit employment of Christians in same-sex marriages, the university would be automatically disaffiliated from the Free Methodist Church,” the university says in its complaint.
Responding to the filing of the suit, Ferguson’s office said in a statement: “The lawsuit demonstrates that the university believes it is above the law to such an extraordinary degree that it is shielded from answering basic questions from my office regarding the University’s compliance with state law.”
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