Nursing Professor sues SPU for discrimination

Jeaux Rinedahl alleges he was passed for promotion because he is gay

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

Jeaux Rinedahl began working at SPU part-time as adjunct faculty in the nursing program in July of 2019. (Courtesy of Daniel Kalish)

On Jan. 11 representatives of Jeaux Rinedahl filed a lawsuit against Seattle Pacific University for sexual orientation discrimination. The suit alleges that Mr. Rinedahl, who is currently an adjunct professor for nursing at SPU, applied for a full time faculty position as an assistant professor. He claims that while he was completely qualified for the job, he was denied the position because he is gay. 

“It was on June 19th that Mr. Rinedahl was informed that he would not be receiving the position, because he was not a heterosexual,” Rinedahl’s lawyer, Dan Kalish explained.

According to Rinedahl and his lawyers, Seattle Pacific University has requested that Rinedahl continue his role as an adjunct professor, despite rejecting his application for promotion.

“They still want him to teach, but not as a full time professor,” Kalish explained. “He is still scheduled to teach in the spring. So even though he is not a ‘heterosexual’ their terms by the way, he is allowed to be an adjunct professor but not a full time professor.”

Rinedahl alleges that his sexual orientation was the sole reason he was given for his rejection from the job. 

“I was notified by telephone, by the assistant dean [of the School of Health Sciences],” Rinedahl said. “She sort’ve delineated a little bit, that to be a full time faculty you have to sign an agreement that you are a heterosexual, there was an allusion to that… she didn’t reference any policy or anything, I was just told that I didn’t qualify because I was not heterosexual.”

Rinedahl believes that former Dean of Health Sciences Lorie Wild gave former Assistant Dean Antwinett Lee instructions that led to his rejection.

The Falcon has reached out to Lee but has not received comment. The Falcon plans to publish any comment received from her in a later article. Wild has declined comment due to concerns over ongoing litigation.

According to a 2019 Supreme Court case titled Bostock vs Clayton County, the 1964 civil rights act applies to matters of sexual orientation as well as gender and race. This was disputed by an amicus filed by the council of Christian colleges that claimed that title VII of the civil rights act does not apply to sexual orientation at religious institutions.

Kalish claims that religious freedoms do not apply in this case, because Rinedahl is not applying for a “ministerial” position.

“Employers cannot discriminate under federal law and under state law,” Kalish says. “The issue here is that the supreme court has also recognized a ministerial exception. A Christian employer under certain circumstances can discriminate against an individual when they hire, those circumstances that we do not believe they apply here.”

According to Kalish and the lawsuit, this is because Rinedahl’s role as an assistant professor would not require him to teach religion or hold religious services, thus making any ministerial exception non-valid.

Rinedahl believes that Seattle Pacific’s conduct throughout the hiring process has been very hypocritical for an institution that markets itself as an inclusive Christian environment. 

“It clearly outlines a double standard.” Rinedahl explained. 

Rinedahl and his lawyers have authored a petition asking people to support his case and help him become a full-time assistant professor. Attached to the petition is a letter addressed to President Dan Martin outlining Rinedahl’s complaints and claiming that SPU’s hiring practices are “on the wrong side of history.”

Martin stated that while he needs some time to consult with the school’s legal advisors, he does plan to follow up with The Falcon later in the week.

Rinedahl is hoping his lawsuit will lead to him receiving the position of assistant professor of nursing at SPU on top of paid damages for losses of pay and benefits, pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life, mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation as well as tax relief and the covered costs of his attorney fees. 

Despite the lawsuit and all that has occurred, Rinedahl says he still plans to teach at Seattle Pacific University no matter what happens in the future.

“I love teaching, I love nursing, and the students are just incredible,” Rinedahl explained. “I do like the philosophy of SPU, I really do. Do I stand up and say ‘how dare you do this to me? I can’t support you!’ or do I say, ‘You know I love the students, the students clearly love me and I’m training future nurses in my own profession, that is the most important thing right now.’”