Yeshiva University in New York City will not have to recognize an LGBT student club, at least not for the time being, according to an emergency ruling the U.S. Supreme Court issued late on Sept. 9, temporarily blocking a lower court order forcing such recognition.
Founded in 1897, the Orthodox Jewish university describes itself in court documents as “the world’s premier Torah-based institution of higher education.” The word “yeshiva” itself refers to a traditional Jewish religious school. Recognizing the LGBT student organization would violate its religious teachings, the school argues.
The new ruling came as the high court has become increasingly protective of constitutionally guaranteed religious rights in recent years.
The order was issued by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees emergency applications from New York and two other states within the 2nd Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Sotomayor provided no reasons for her decision in the case known as Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance, court file 22A184. Her order (pdf) states that the lower court ruling “is hereby stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.”
The university asked the U.S. Supreme Court to pause a court ruling that determined its refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance violated the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the alternative, the school asked the high court to take up the case and fast-track it, something the high court may yet do.
Rabbi Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, hailed the new ruling.
“We are pleased with Justice Sotomayor’s ruling which protects our religious liberty and identity as a leading faith-based academic institution,” Berman told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
“But make no mistake, we will continue to strive to create an environment that welcomes all students, including those of our LGBTQ community. We remain committed to engaging in meaningful dialogue with our students, Rabbis, and faculty about how best to ensure an inclusive campus for all students in accordance with our Torah values.”
The attorney for the YU Pride Alliance, Katie Rosenfeld of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward and Maazel LLP, said her client “will await a final order from the Supreme Court.”
The group “remains committed to creating a safe space for LGBTQ students on YU’s campus to build community and support one another without being discriminated against,” Rosenfeld told The Epoch Times by email.
In June, Judge Lynn Kotler of the 1st Judicial District of the New York Supreme Court, determined that the university was not a bona fide religious corporation so it was, therefore, not exempt from the public accommodation provisions of the NYCHRL, as The Epoch Times reported.
Kotler, a Democrat, ruled that even though the university is “religious” and “at first blush” appeared to be exempt from the law, its “organizing documents” do not “expressly indicate that Yeshiva has a religious purpose.”
Kotler stated that Yeshiva amended its charter in 1967 to become, in the words of the amending document, “an educational corporation under the Education Law of the State of New York.” The document states that “Yeshiva University is and continues to be organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes.”
Although in 1965, the NYCHRL “excluded ‘colleges and universities’ from classification as a place of public accommodation, in 1991, the City Council removed this exemption from the NYCHRL.” This means, the judge wrote, that the court’s finding that “Yeshiva is not exempt from the NYCHRL is wholly consistent with the legislative intent of the NYCHRL, which requires that exemption from it be narrowly construed in order to minimize discriminatory conduct.”
Kotler issued a permanent injunction directing Yeshiva to “immediately grant Plaintiff YU Pride Alliance” official approval as a club.
The university’s attorney, Eric S. Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, previously said Kotler’s ruling was “an unprecedented intrusion into the autonomy of a religious organization and a gross violation of the First Amendment.”
This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Sept. 9, 2022, in The Epoch Times.
Photo: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor