A Seattle Pacific University staffer has come out to her colleagues as a lesbian at a time when the conservative Christian school is facing legal action over its anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
"My name is Kristi Holt and I am a lesbian," Holt, a chemistry lab coordinator and adjunct instructor, wrote in a recent email to faculty and staff, The Seattle Times reports.
The university has been the site of protests for several months, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is investigating its hiring practices. Seattle Pacific is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, a conservative denomination that is separate from the United Methodist Church. The university will not employ people who are in same-sex marriages and expects employees to adhere to its policy that sex is reserved exclusively for the marriage of a man and a woman. The university affirmed that policy in May, and officials have said it would lose its affiliation with the Free Methodist Church if it rescinded the policy -- which is something faculty members have recommended.
Seattle Pacific sued Ferguson in July, contending that his investigation is a violation of religious freedom. Last year, an adjunct nursing instructor, Jeaux Rinedahl, sued the university for discrimination, saying he was told he wouldn't have a chance at a full-time job there because he's gay; the case was settled out of court. Then, last week, current and former students, faculty, and staff sued university trustees, saying the discrimination is costing the school financially and is therefore a breach of fiduciary duty. Holt is one of those who sued.
Sending the email "was liberating as much as it was terrifying," Holt, who did her undergraduate studies at Seattle Pacific, told the Times. The 27-year-old, who is in her first relationship with a woman, says she was also coming out to herself. "I had only ever been in evangelical spaces," she said. "And to me that meant not affirming. However, SPU challenged that for me." Despite the school's stance on same-sex relationships, it seemed to have a more liberal atmosphere than the small town where she grew up, she said, and a theology professor had made affirming statements.
So far she has gotten support from her colleagues, as did a music professor, Christopher Hanson, who had earlier come out as bisexual. "Holt and Hanson believe it's because of a kind of loophole: The hiring policy targets sexual conduct, not identity," the Times reports. "Hanson is married to a woman. Holt said she was celibate when she publicly declared herself a lesbian."
University officials declined to comment for the story.