SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement on Friday confirming that his office is investigating potential illegal discrimination by Seattle Pacific University’s administration. The statement follows the University’s lawsuit seeking to block the investigation.
“Seattle Pacific University admits that it refuses to hire gay faculty and staff. In May, Seattle Pacific University students and staff staged a sit-in and called for the removal of the University’s board of trustees after they voted to keep in place school policies that prohibit employees from engaging in ‘same-sex sexual activity.’ Numerous Seattle Pacific University students, faculty, and others reached out to my office to file complaints or otherwise express deep concern that the University administration’s policies illegally violate Washingtonians’ civil rights.
“My office protects the civil rights of Washingtonians who have historically faced harmful discrimination. That’s our job — we uphold Washington’s law prohibiting discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation.
“My office respects the religious views of all Washingtonians and the constitutional rights afforded to religious institutions. As a person of faith, I share that view. My office did not prejudge whether Seattle Pacific University’s employment policies or its actions are illegal. We responded to the complaints from concerned Washingtonians by sending the University a letter. The letter asked four questions. The letter also invited the University to provide any additional information that it wanted my office to consider.
“We did not publicize the letter, nor did we announce our investigation. In response to our inquiry, Seattle Pacific University filed a federal lawsuit. 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.
“Seattle Pacific University’s attempt to obstruct our lawful investigation will not succeed.
“Anyone who believes they were subject to possible employment discrimination by Seattle Pacific University should contact my civil rights team at email@example.com.”