Another former Fuller Theological Seminary student who says he was expelled because of his same-sex marriage has joined a lawsuit alleging the nation’s largest interdenominational seminary violated anti-discrimination laws.
In the amended complaint filed Tuesday morning, Nathan Brittsan, an American Baptist Churches USA minister, and Joanna Maxon, a former Fuller student who sued the school in November over a similar experience, ask for more than $1 million each in compensation.
The suit is believed to be the first of its kind, and its outcome could have wider implications for Christian colleges and universities who receive government funding. Title IX bars federally funded educational programs from discrimination based on sex, though dozens of Christian schools have received exemptions.
“It’s a very important case at this time in our nation’s history,” said Paul Southwick, the attorney representing Maxon and Brittsan. “This case could set an important legal precedent that if an educational institution receives federal funding, even if it’s religiously affiliated, even if it’s a seminary, that it’s required to comply with Title IX prohibitions on sex discrimination as applied to LGBT individuals.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will represent Fuller. Becket specializes in the defense of religious liberty and has taken on numerous high profile cases, including the Supreme Court cases Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in 2014 and Holt v. Hobbs in 2015.
Becket’s lawyers have not yet reviewed the amended complaint and are consulting with Fuller about the next steps in the legal defense.
“The claims here are dangerous for faith-based institutions,” said Becket Fund attorney Daniel Blomberg. “If the court was to accept them, then they would be harmful to religious groups of all backgrounds and particularly minority religious groups that have beliefs that the majority and the surrounding communities might find unpopular … We think that’s unlikely that courts would accept these kinds of arguments because they’re weak claims. But they’re dangerous.”