Seattle Pacific files lawsuit in support of religious freedom

Seattle Pacific University is in federal court defending its right to hire Christian faculty and staff after Washington state’s attorney general demanded the university's internal communications and private employee information. Seattle Pacific has asked a federal district court to step in and protect its freedom to choose employees on the basis of religion, free from government interference or intimidation.

In June 2022, SPU was notified that the attorney general’s office was beginning an investigation and demanded copies of confidential information related to employees as well as university policies. SPU believes the attorney general’s office has targeted the university because of its Christian beliefs and is asking the federal court to ensure it can maintain its religious identity.

Founded in 1891 as Seattle Seminary, Seattle Pacific is a nationally ranked, private Christian liberal arts university in Seattle, Washington. More than 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students gain an education combining outstanding scholarship and thoughtful faith. When hiring employees, Seattle Pacific requires faculty and staff to be Christian, to affirm the University’s statement of faith, and to abide by its lifestyle expectations, which together shape the vision and mission of the institution as a Free Methodist Church-affiliated university. In the spirit of SPU’s mission focus, the University welcomes students from all faith backgrounds.

“For over 130 years, our university has been guided by our Christian mission and purpose, and we’re asking to continue that tradition,” said Interim President Pete Menjares. “The faith commitment of our faculty and staff is an essential foundation to our identity as a Christian university.”

Throughout our nation’s history, the First Amendment has protected churches and other religious institutions’ right to decide what they believe and who should lead them, without interference from the government.

“The state is going after a 130-year-old Christian university and violating our country’s long-standing principle of the separation of church and state,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, who is representing SPU. “We will defend Seattle Pacific’s right to operate its school in accordance with its faith.”

Ellis, Li & McKinstry is also representing Seattle Pacific University.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

For more information on the lawsuit, please see our frequently asked questions.

Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2022