US Supreme Court allows Yeshiva U to ban LGBTQ student clubs

The United States Supreme Court has temporarily overturned a lower court ruling requiring New York’s Yeshiva University to recognize the legality of the campus’ LGBTQ organization.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Friday granted an urgent request filed last week by the Modern Orthodox University, citing rights arising from the First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion.

The university argued that recognizing this LGBTQ organization would be contrary to its beliefs.

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This new decision suspends the decision issued by a New York state judge last June, according to which the university is required to recognize the organization.

The legal battle pits the university against the Pride Alliance, the LGBTQ organization, which disputes whether the university is a religious or secular institution.

The university welcomed the decision on Friday, saying it could “now carry out its religious mission without government interference”. »

In a statement, it said the decision “protects the First Amendment rights of Yeshiva University and its ability to conduct its internal affairs in accordance with its religious values.”

Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, said the institution is “satisfied with Judge Sotomayor’s decision that protects our religious freedom and our identity as a leading religious academic institution.”

“But make no mistake, we will continue to work to create a welcoming environment for all students, including students in our LGBTQ community. We remain committed to engaging in constructive dialogue with our students, rabbis, and faculty about how best to ensure that our campus is inclusive and inclusive of all students, consistent with the values ​​of the Torah.

A poster advertising an LGBT event at Yeshiva University, December 15, 2020 (Courtesy of Yeshiva University Student Organizers)

In 2020, a group of LGBT student activists accused the university of discrimination and filed a complaint with the city’s human rights commission, before suing the university in 2021.

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In June, Judge Lynn Cutler of New York declared that the university had been accredited as a non-religious organization and that it must, as such, respect human rights. The court also said that the university offers too many secular degrees to qualify for religious exemptions.

The case is under statewide appeal, but the judges declined to suspend the matter in the meantime.

Sotomayor said Friday that the Supreme Court’s ruling was “pending further order”.

US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during an event on April 5, 2022 at Washington University in St. Louis. (AP/Jeff Roberson, file)

The Supreme Court features a conservative majority that has already ruled in favor of religious conservatives.

In June, governors, with a 6-3 majority, rescinded the Maine program banning spending public funds on religious schools and ruling that a Washington state high school football coach has the right to pray on the field after games.

Yeshiva University, in its provisional appeal last Monday, said it acted “to conduct its internal affairs in accordance with its religious beliefs.”

“As a deeply religious Jewish university, Yeshiva University cannot comply with this order because it violates its deep religious beliefs about how to teach its undergraduate students the values ​​of the Torah,” the application to the Supreme Court read.

This decision was an unprecedented interference in the affairs and beliefs of the Yeshiva University, as well as the religious training offered to its students in matters of Jewish faith. It is also a clear violation of First Amendment rights.

Illustrative: Yeshiva University building in New York. (Luke Trice/Times of Israel)

The request added that the process of announcing student organization for the academic year 2022-2023 is open and continued until September 12. Recognition grants LGBTQ club funding and other benefits.

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The university said in the statement that the lower court’s decision “will force Yeshiva Yu to agree to an organization whose activities run counter to the biblical values ​​advocated by the university and the religious environment it seeks to preserve.”

Orthodox Judaism prohibits homosexuality.

The university asserts that it represents a religious institution that requires all undergraduates to “engage in comprehensive religious studies” and adhere to Jewish law on campus.

The activist group “Jews Queer Youth” said in a statement that the university “presents a homophobic display that they say does not exist on campus.”

“Instead of listening to what they really want, which is to have a safe space to make friends and build a community, YU deliberately confuses gay youth’s need for self-respect with a demand that doesn’t exist. Not when it comes to sexual behavior,” the group said.

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