A 53-year-old student at Fuller Theological Seminary was expelled, just a few credits shy of graduating, after administrators found out she was married to another woman.
Now Joanna Maxon (below) is suing the school, claiming that the federally funded school is violating Title IX rules that prohibit sex discrimination. (Had she been a man married to a woman, she would not be expelled, hence the sex discrimination charge.)
Paul Southwick, Maxon’s attorney, alleges the school also violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act and is seeking compensation of at least $500,000 to cover attorney fees and Maxon’s federally funded student loans, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in a U.S. District Court in Central California.
Southwick said that because Fuller accepted federal aid and had not received a religious exemption, it must adhere to federal laws, including Title IX.
Maxon points out that it’s not like her sexual orientation or marriage were hidden. She claims that both students and professors were warm and supportive of her when she talked about her wife. That reaction didn’t surprise her at all. Unlike other Christian schools that explicitly prohibit same-sex relationships, Fuller had no requirement of the sort. There’s no statement of faith, either.
The school does ban “sexual conduct” between two people of the same gender — including married people — but no one ever asked her about that. They saw she was married, assumed everything else, and then kicked her out.
Maxon had no reason to think her relationship would be an issue. It’s only now, when she’s close to graduation, that they’re using it against her.
The way the school found out is equally disturbing. It was an unnamed employee in the school’s finance department who discovered Maxon’s marriage in tax filings and reported it to school officials.
It’s not clear why an expulsion is necessary here. The school won’t say anything to the press. That’s why the lawsuit has been filed.
While this plays out in the courts, though, Fuller is making it clear that they value cruelty over forgiveness when it comes to any sort of misunderstanding. They’re more interested in adhering to their stringent (and apparently opaque) rules than making sure a devout student can promote Christianity with their diploma in hand.
(Thanks to Steve for the link)