Looking back to move forward

A recap of Seattle Pacific University’s LGBTQIA+ events of the 2020-2021 school year

Santi Quiroga Medina, News Editor

Following a tense year of lawsuits, protests, and demonstrations, Seattle Pacific University prepares to begin the 2021-2022 year with no changes to the highly controversial statement on human sexuality found on SPU’s mission statement webpage. 


The statement outlines lifestyle expectations currently debated by the SPU community, specifically that “sexual experience is intended between a man and a woman.” This, alongside lifestyle expectations in the faculty handbook with similar LGBTQIA+ exclusions, became a topic of intense debate following Professor Jeaux Rinedahl’s denial of full employment.


Representatives of Adjunct Nursing Professor Jeaux Rinedahl filed a lawsuit against the school for sexual orientation discrimination on Jan. 11 2021. Rinedahl claimed he was denied full-time employment because he is gay, despite believing he was qualified 


SPU responded later that month thanking Rinedahl for his service, but declined to comment on the lawsuit. 


Seattle Pacific University students outside of former president Dan Martin’s house. (Courtesy of Marissa Lordahl)

Students gathered in a socially distanced demonstration outside of former SPU President Dan Martin’s house shortly after the lawsuit was filed. The demonstration included hundreds of students and staff protesting SPU’s decision, as well as the statement on human sexuality in general, using pool noodles and floor chalk to ensure social distancing. 



At the beginning of February the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (ASSP) senate decided to send a letter to the Board of Trustees (BoT) with a vote of 10-0 and two abstentions.  The letter, received by Martin on Feb 9, urged the BoT to remove the statement on human sexuality and instead replace it with an affirmation for the LGBTQIA+ community. Faculty and staff then sent a letter of lament to the board two days later, hoping to “build bridges of understanding, shared pain, and healing, as well as to advocate for silenced voices and affect change in SPU’s written policy and institutional practices regarding human sexuality.”


Following these student and faculty decisions, former ASSP President José Flores met with the Board on March 3, 2021 to share the desire of many students, staff, and faculty to remove the statement on human sexuality. While the BoT deliberated, SPU was mentioned in a different lawsuit. Alum Spencer Vigil accused the institution of discrimination and harrassment, this time as a part of a nationwide effort against the Department of Education to change some of the protections that Title IX gives to private schools like SPU. 


In April, Executive-in-Charge Laura Hartley announced the Board’s decision not to change the statement on human sexuality. This decision prompted ASSP to announce potential sanctions against the BoT if the decision was not changed by May 1. These sanctions included financial penalties for school funding as well as forming alumni task forces to discourage enrollment for future quarters. 


Many students, faculty, and staff gathered in Tiffany Loop on Apr. 19 to voice their anger, sadness, and frustrations during a candlelight vigil. 

Students Leah Duff, Reena Sidhu, and Raegan Figgins distributing pride flags the evening of the candlelight vigil back in April. (Courtesy of Marissa Lordahl)


Prominent figures of the SPU community like current ASSP President Laur Lugos and Professor Rinedahl, as well as other staff and students, voiced their frustrations about the decision.


“This fight is bigger than me,” said Rinedahl, “This is a fight that Christianity is open to everyone; Christianity is not closed to homosexuals.” 


Apr. 19 also saw SPU faculty releasing a statement of no confidence in the BoT. The statement outlined the staff’s concerns with the Board’s decision, claiming SPU’s “duty of care,” “duty of loyalty” and “duty of obedience” are not being upheld. The letter also urged the BoT to keep an open dialogue for changing or removing the statement. During this time, a letter of exhortation was drafted by a former senior student. The letter asked the Board to not only maintain the statement, but also to hold its faculty to a higher standard of Orthodox behavior. Despite the ASSP and faculty’s pleas for change, the May 1 deadline was not met and ASSP began to work on their sanction plan.


As of now, the statement on human sexuality continues to be a point of intense debate and controversy within the SPU community. ASSP led events and sanctions are expected to continue as both the lawsuits and policy decisions develop.