A professor has filled a lawsuit against Seattle Pacific University in Washington after he was allegedly denied a fulltime position based on his sexuality.

After 40 years as a registered nurse, Jéaux Rinedahl returned to study in the hopes of achieving his dream of becoming a graduate nursing professor.

Last April, he was close to achieving that dream when he commenced a part-time role at SPU.

“I knew the Assistant Dean. She was so excited when I applied for that role, well obviously, she hired me. She knew I was gay, she even asked for a photo from my wedding.”

But Rinedahl’s dream was short-lived. After receiving accolades from students and executives, Professor Rinedahl applied for a permanent vacancy in early May.

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Six weeks later, the Assistant Dean called Rinedahl to discuss his application.

“I was so close to my dream. Graduate teaching was, after all, what I really wanted to do.”

Professor Rinedahl was told he wouldn’t be accepted into the position.

“I remember exactly how she said it: ‘It’s because you’re not heterosexual.’

“I just froze up. I felt sick to my stomach. To be honest, I started bawling.

“I’m not naïve in regard to having issues in life about being gay and gay prejudices. But I never expected that [from SPU]. Even though they’re a Christian university… I was already working there as a gay man. They even offered to keep me on part-time.”

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 Daniel Kalish, Rinedahl’s attorney, said employment discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is illegal, but SPU may be covered by a loophole called the ministerial exception.

“This basically means religious institutions can discriminate when appointing ministers. So, the case comes down to who can be defined as a minister and we don’t believe this exception applies in Professor Rinedahl’s case.”

A representative from SPU said, “We are currently reviewing the lawsuit and don’t have any comment at this time.”

Since his rejection, Rinedahl has been forced to take up work elsewhere.

“Fulltime faculty positions are very hard to find. I haven’t been able to find a job in education but I’m still in nursing.

“Before receiving that phone call, everything was on track. I had set my life up to move into full-time [work] and leave my other work. It was a crushing blow, not just professionally and personally. It brought my sexuality into it.”

Professor Rinedahl and his attorneys are awaiting a response from SPU before litigation can commence.

For more information on the case, visit www.hkm.com/rinedahl

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