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Students protest against a Seattle university's ban on hiring LGBTQ employees

Students gather a sit-in at Seattle Pacific University on May 26, 2022.
Seattle Pacific University's Alumni Coalition
Students gather a sit-in at Seattle Pacific University on May 26, 2022.

Students at Seattle Pacific University (SPU), a private Christian university in Seattle, protested after the campus administration voted last week to uphold rules that ban the hiring of LBGTQ+ staff from working at the university.

Last week, the SPU Board of Trustees voted to retain the university's current employee lifestyle expectations regarding sexual conduct. Following the board's vote, students walked out of class on last Tuesday to protest in front of the university president's office.

With this decision, faculty and staff at the university must "continue to reflect a traditional view on Biblical marriage and sexuality, as an expression of long-held church teaching and biblical interpretation," the university's said in its statement.

AJ Larsen, a 2020 graduate and member of SPU's alumni coalition, said: "No matter what you believe, getting rid of these policies is the best way to make sure that our campus is an inclusive place for all people to be. Not only in the student body but in the faculty, staff and administration."

"And that's going to make SPU a much better place to be," they added.

SPU's student body president Laur Lugos told NPR affiliate KUOW: "This is not a new fight — this has been an ongoing fight for 30 years."

Board of Trustees Chair Cedric Davis said in a statement the trustees made their decision based on what they believed was most in line with the university's mission.

"We want the community of SPU to know that this was a thorough and prayerful deliberation," Davis said in the statement.

The board statement added: "While this decision brings complex and heart-felt reactions, the Board made a decision that it believed was most in line with the university's mission and Statement of Faith and chose to have SPU remain in communion with its founding denomination, the Free Methodist Church USA, as a core part of its historical identity as a Christian university."

The board recognizes that there is "disagreement among faithful Christians" regarding sexuality and identity.

The university had previously been in court over its controversial views regarding sexuality and its policies.

In 2021, adjunct nursing professor Jéaux Rinedahl sued the university, but the case was eventually settled out of court.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.