Yeshiva University fight for religious freedom over LGBTQ+ club could head to Supreme Court

Yeshiva University filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court on Monday seeking to block a lower court’s order requiring the school to recognize an LGBTQ+ student group, forcing it to go against its religious core values.

(Video Credit: Fox News)

The country’s oldest Jewish institution of higher education is located in New York City. It has been fighting with state courts for over a year, steadfastly refusing to recognize the YU Pride Alliance. The university asserts that to do so would be inconsistent with its values as a “deeply religious Jewish university” and violates its First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

In a lawsuit that was filed in 2021, a group of Yeshiva University students and alumni asserted that the refusal to recognize the group deprives them of the benefits that other student organizations enjoy, such as the use of campus facilities for meetings, fundraisers, and advertising.

The complaint filed by the group calls the school’s actions to block recognition “blatantly illegal” under the New York City Human Rights Law.

The New York County Supreme Court ruled in June that the university must recognize the Pride Alliance and grant it “the full and equal accommodations” and privileges that are given to other student groups at the school.

The lower court argued that Yeshiva University does not qualify for a religious exemption to the city’s human rights law because it is not a religious corporation.

“Yeshiva’s organizing documents do not expressly indicate that Yeshiva has a religious purpose,” the court stated. “Rather, Yeshiva organized itself as an ‘education corporation’ and for educational purposes, exclusively.”

Yeshiva University was denied an appeal to negate the court’s decision.

In its emergency request, the school asserted that the “government-enforced establishment” of the Pride Alliance would cause “irreparable harm” to its students and community and requested an immediate stay on the order to recognize the club.

“When secular authorities try to tell Yeshiva University that it is not religious, you know something has gone terribly wrong,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Yeshiva University, commented on Monday in a statement. “The First Amendment protects Yeshiva’s right to practice its faith. We are asking the Supreme Court to correct this obvious error.”

“The Torah guides everything that we do at Yeshiva — from how we educate students to how we run our dining halls to how we organize our campus,” Yeshiva University President Ari Berman asserted.

“We care deeply for and welcome all our students, including our LGBTQ students, and continue to be engaged in a productive dialogue with our Rabbis, faculty, and students on how we apply our Torah values to create an inclusive campus environment,” he explained. “We only ask the government to allow us the freedom to apply the Torah in accordance with our values.”

“We are proud to be students of Yeshiva University,” the YU Pride Alliance wrote previously. “And are excited to continue our work at YU in an official capacity.”

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