'It has nothing to do with our religion'; SPU students await lawsuit decision

The fight continues as Seattle Pacific University students try to hold the school's leadership accountable.

SPU has been at the center of controversy for months for what's been described as anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policies. Students have staged sit-ins which lasted 300 hours and protested during graduation ceremonies.

A hearing was held Friday morning, where students and staff proudly wore pride flags and pins.

Judge Andrea Darvas heard both sides trying to determine if the lawsuit filed in Sep. 2022 against four members of the Board of Trustees would move forward.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: SPU students file lawsuit against Board of Trustees over anti-LGBTQ hiring policy

The hearing focused on the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act, which protects against defamation suits.

It comes after SPU filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit arguing it's a "transparent effort to intimidate and punish leaders" for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Chloe Guillot, 22, a graduate student working towards her masters of divinity, is one of 12 students and staff who suing. They alleged members breached confidentiality and loyalty, and are responsible for fraud and negligent misrepresentation.  

"Freedom of religion does not give you the freedom to commit bad faith deeds—you can't lie and manipulate people and use religion as your excuse for that," Guillot said.

Judge Darvas did not make a decision on the bench. She has 60 days to file a written decision.

FOX 13 News reached out to SPU, who sent us this statement on behalf of Nathaniel Taylor, who is representing the university:

"We appreciate the court’s careful consideration of the arguments. Whether the case is dismissed now or later, the lawsuit against these trustees has no merit and ultimately just hurts Seattle Pacific University. The First Amendment means courts do not make decisions about the religious mission of a Christian university."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Attorney General opens civil rights investigation into Seattle Pacific University, SPU sues in return

"Will the school be around for me to finish my degree?" Guillot said, noting it's a question she wonders daily.

She says Seattle Pacific University is sinking, citing a decrease in enrollment, among other issues. 

"$17 million in debt, enrollment is at a low, 30% of donors have backed out, they have to cut 25% of faculty to keep up with the budget," Guillot said.

The campus's enrollment shown on the schools' own websites signals a drop since 2018.

The alleged anti-LGBTQ controversy stems from the University’s employee lifestyle expectations which says in part, "Employees are expected to refrain from sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University's understanding of Biblical standards, including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, and same-sex sexual activity."

Guillot, along with dozens of students and staff members, have fought to change it after a nursing professor sued the school, accusing SPU of rejecting his application for a full-time tenured job because he’s gay. 

The policy was up for vote in May 2022, the Board of Trustees kept it.

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"These men led the whole campus on to thinking that they were going to look at the facts, look at everything that had been presented to them about why this policy should change, and they just never intended to change it," Guillot said.

SPU told FOX 13 News that the hiring policy will not be revisited.