Inside Higher Ed recently published an article titled, “Seattle Pacific sues Washington to keep homophobic policies.”
In response, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) sent a letter to the editor defending Seattle Pacific University’s (SPU) policies.
The letter, written by CCCU Chief Communications Officer Amanda Staggenborg, said, “Embracing Biblical views of marriage as between a man and a woman does not mean religious institutions are hostile to LGBTQ people.
The fracas arose because Washington state Attorney General Robert Ferguson sent a letter to SPU in June, announcing an investigation into the school’s hiring policies. He stated:
The AGO has recently learned about possible discriminatory employment policies and practices by Seattle Pacific University (University) that may violate the Washington Law Against Discrimination … I am writing to inform you that the AGO is opening an inquiry to determine whether the University is meeting its obligations under state law.
Specifically, we have learned of information that suggests that the University may utilize employment policies and practices that permit or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including by prohibiting same-sex marriage and activity.
In response, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of SPU, seeking to put an end to the attorney general’s investigation. The lawsuit explains:
Seattle Pacific University is a Christian university fully committed to engaging the culture and changing the world by graduating people of competence and character, becoming people of wisdom, and modeling grace-filled community. For more than 130 years, Seattle Pacific has carried out its mission of Christian education and service in the Pacific Northwest.
The complaint says that the school’s “mission is under fire” by Ferguson, adding:
The U.S. Constitution recognizes and protects the right of Seattle Pacific University to decide matters of faith and doctrine, to hire employees who share its religious beliefs, and to select and retain ministers free from government interference
In his reporting on the lawsuit, Higher Ed reporter Josh Moody called the school’s hiring policies “homophobic” – so much for unbiased, objective news reporting.
The slur against SPU was also included in the article title, although it has since been removed. But you can see the original title in the list of articles written by Moody, in a tweet he posted about the story, and in the article’s web address.
In her response, Staggenborg said the word “mischaracterizes the university’s Lifestyle Expectations and labels all Christian colleges and universities that follow a faith-filled mission in accordance with Biblical marriage standards unjustly.”
The CCCU supports the religious mission of our member institutions and advocates for a robust understanding of religious freedom where the right to practice these beliefs includes the right to hire for mission. Our institutions uphold Biblical views of marriage as between one man and one woman. Following those views is a choice that each student, faculty member and employee makes when attending, teaching or working at a Christian institution.
Staggenborg explained that Christian schools are not “homophobic,” they love all people but have a biblical view of sexuality:
Homophobia, as used in the article, implies a hostility or fear of LGBTQ people that is dangerous and prejudicial. To be clear, LGBTQ people are welcome and safe at Christian colleges and universities. Respecting the tradition of marriage in accordance with upstanding moral behavior is not homophobic. It is grounded in the Bible and a foundation for a moral society as lived throughout the mission and practices of each CCCU institution. We hold the Christian belief that all human beings, without exception, are invested with inherent worth and dignity.
SPU employees know what they sign up for when they are hired by the school. SPU has a clear Statement on Human Sexuality, which says, “Human beings are created in the image of God, male and female, and are of inestimable worth.”
The statement affirms the institutions of marriage and family
We believe it is in the context of the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman that the full expression of sexuality is to be experienced and celebrated and that such a commitment is part of God’s plan for human flourishing. Within the teaching of our religious tradition, we affirm that sexual experience is intended between a man and a woman.
If employees don’t agree with SPU’s biblical view of marriage, they are free to leave and find a job someplace else.
Kudos to SPU, the Becket Fund, CCCU and Staggenborg for pushing back against intolerant media and government officials.
Washington State Attorney General Investigating Christian University for its Marriage Beliefs
Photo from Facebook.